A critical investigation and re-assessment of the composition history of J.S. Bach's 5th suite for unaccompanied violoncello, BWV 1011

Hill, Andrew John (2012). A critical investigation and re-assessment of the composition history of J.S. Bach's 5th suite for unaccompanied violoncello, BWV 1011. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

The research which led to the writing of this thesis started from the authors dissatisfaction with the available editions of Bach's Cello Suites. Questions could not be answered concerning the quality and accuracy of the text, compounded by uncertainty about performance practice in Bach S circle. Nothing but a fundamental and comprehensive return to the roots of the problem, i.e. to the sources themselves, could help to achieve an understanding of the text which would be sufficient to perform and teach these works.

In order to achieve the level of analytical detail needed to satisfy the objectives of this research, it was decided to select the 5th Cello Suite BWV 1011 from the set of six Cello Suites as the main subject of this study. BWV 1011 is especially interesting for this study for two reasons. Firstly BWV 1011 is written in scordatura in three of the surviving sources, providing much information about the copyists themselves and contemporary performance practice. Secondly, there exists an autograph additional source by Bach of this work transcribed for lute (BWV 995), bringing extra information about Bach's intentions.

After an introduction to the sources of the Cello Suites and of related works for violin and lute, this thesis describes in detail all of the differences between the sources in the notes, articulation and ornaments, drawing conclusions about the habits and relative reliability of the copyists and of Bach himself, and accumulates information about performance practice.

Finally, conclusions are drawn about the relative reliability and importance at each source, leading to the conclusion that the copy by Anna Magdalena Bach may be the least reliable, which is significant for cellists and editors because all of the most frequently used modern editions are mainly based on Anna Magdalena's copy.

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