Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:00 am

Steve Langham wrote: Stephen, what grade is the Richard Wright prelude for Cello Suite #1?
And is the Stanley Yates arrangement about the same level?
Well Prelude to suite 1 isn't in an actual grade, but I think it would probably be on 6. The Yates is perhaps a grade higher because of the extras he adds, but they may not be enough to shift it up a whole level. Its not a very scientific business!
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Steve Langham
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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by Steve Langham » Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:01 am

Thanks. I like the prelude and was just trying to gauge the general level and wondering whether I should tackle it.
I prefer the Yates version as it provides enough extra bass notes to fill out the sound. The Wright arrangement is just a bit too 'bare' for my liking.
And would you say that these versions in C are more accessible (i.e., a bit easier) than the common versions you see in the key of D?

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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by zupfgeiger » Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:44 am

Steve Langham wrote:And would you say that these versions in C are more accessible (i.e., a bit easier) than the common versions you see in the key of D?
I tried the C version and don't like it. Only the original version with the boomy bass in D gives you the Cello feeling of that piece. And the whole first suite is not very difficult compared to following cello suites.
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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Feb 22, 2017 6:02 pm

zupfgeiger wrote: I tried the C version and don't like it. Only the original version with the boomy bass in D gives you the Cello feeling of that piece. And the whole first suite is not very difficult compared to following cello suites.
Fair enough and probably the majority opinion. Interesting though, as this ascribes the 'cello feeling' to notes not played on the, er, cello ...
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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Wed Feb 22, 2017 7:28 pm

zupfgeiger wrote:Only the original version with the boomy bass in D gives you the Cello feeling of that piece.
Stephen Kenyon wrote:Fair enough and probably the majority opinion. Interesting though, as this ascribes the 'cello feeling' to notes not played on the, er, cello ...
My word, you are too polite Stephen - "boomy bass" my aunt Nelly.

We're barking up the wrong tree in trying to capture the cello feeling through the depth of the bass - that can in any case be better achieved by choosing the key of A (as has been mentioned elsewhere). What's more important is to understand the gestures inherent in (for instance) small phrase structure, durations at intervallic leaps (and therefore articulation), melodic rather than harmonic execution of arpeggios etc., etc.

In other words - not what but how we play.

Sustaining those first basses as half-notes is bad enough - in doing so we not only undermine the deepening melodic tension of the opening measures (created by the widening intervals), we dismantle one of the prime motifs of the whole suite. The addition of a lower octave D just adds insult to injury, completely destroying the broader linear development so that when we reach the sub-mediant it's now higher instead of lower than the tonic.

I'm thinking of Jack Duarte's version here by the way but I recall that Diaz, Sollscher, Kobune all do it - not sure about Yates but I'd be surprised as he tends to be more thoughtful in his transcriptions.

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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Feb 22, 2017 7:57 pm

Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:...
My word, you are too polite Stephen - ....
Doing my best Mark. I seem to get in trouble if I'm too honest about things.
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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by Mr Kite » Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:07 pm

Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:Sustaining those first basses as half-notes is bad enough - in doing so we not only undermine the deepening melodic tension of the opening measures (created by the widening intervals), we dismantle one of the prime motifs of the whole suite. The addition of a lower octave D just adds insult to injury, completely destroying the broader linear development so that when we reach the sub-mediant it's now higher instead of lower than the tonic.

I'm thinking of Jack Duarte's version here by the way but I recall that Diaz, Sollscher, Kobune all do it - not sure about Yates but I'd be surprised as he tends to be more thoughtful in his transcriptions.
You're right - they're quarter notes and descend to the A, but since it is in C he didn't have much choice (or maybe that's part of the reason he thought C was better).

Based on a quick glance through the notes though, I don't think he was trying to capture the cello feeling, so much as make the piece sound as if it had been written for guitar.

I am not clear whether you are saying in the earlier part of your post that the things you mention are important in creating the cello feeling, or in playing these suites, or just in playing generally. Could you expand on that? At the risk of boring you I have been on a mini-adventure in which, in chapter 1, I noticed that when it came to those notes that can belong either to the end of one phrase or the beginning of the next (don't know whether they have an official name) I tended to play them either a bit early or a bit late, whereas my teacher played them bang on. By chapter 2 I had put this down to a timing problem and decided to work on it. In chapter 3 I began to think it was really a question of phrasing and not necessarily a timing error, then in chapter 4 I realised that it even if it was a question of phrasing, it could be that as a learner I was too focused on the small phrases, whereas as a proper musician he was more interested in the long phrases (which chimes with something Ben Zander said). In chapter 5 I decided I was overthinking the whole thing and went down the pub, but now that you mention the small phrases, I realise I don't quite have closure.

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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by zupfgeiger » Thu Feb 23, 2017 8:46 am

Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:
zupfgeiger wrote:Only the original version with the boomy bass in D gives you the Cello feeling of that piece.
Stephen Kenyon wrote:Fair enough and probably the majority opinion. Interesting though, as this ascribes the 'cello feeling' to notes not played on the, er, cello ...
My word, you are too polite Stephen - "boomy bass" my aunt Nelly.

We're barking up the wrong tree in trying to capture the cello feeling through the depth of the bass - that can in any case be better achieved by choosing the key of A (as has been mentioned elsewhere). What's more important is to understand the gestures inherent in (for instance) small phrase structure, durations at intervallic leaps (and therefore articulation), melodic rather than harmonic execution of arpeggios etc., etc.

In other words - not what but how we play.

Sustaining those first basses as half-notes is bad enough - in doing so we not only undermine the deepening melodic tension of the opening measures (created by the widening intervals), we dismantle one of the prime motifs of the whole suite. The addition of a lower octave D just adds insult to injury, completely destroying the broader linear development so that when we reach the sub-mediant it's now higher instead of lower than the tonic.

I'm thinking of Jack Duarte's version here by the way but I recall that Diaz, Sollscher, Kobune all do it - not sure about Yates but I'd be surprised as he tends to be more thoughtful in his transcriptions.
Thanks for the instructive lecture. Nonetheless I stick to this less thoughtful D version, because it has those nice boomy basses and gives a beautiful cello feeling. :D
The secret of getting ahead is getting started (Mark Twain)

Tobias Braun, Santos copy, spruce/yew, 2017
Andrea Tacchi, Enrique Garcia model, Spruce/BRAZ, 2016
Giovanni Tacchi, Daniel Friederich copy, cedar/EIR, 2017
Alain Raifort, cedar/EIR, 2004

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Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:09 pm

zupfgeiger wrote:Thanks for the instructive lecture. Nonetheless I stick to this less thoughtful D version, because it has those nice boomy basses and gives a beautiful cello feeling.
Lol. I do appreciate the low D versions too Zupfgeiger and apologies - though I was being deliberately provocative in describing the low D effect on Bach's work I didn't mean to be rude about your personal preference.

In fact the first version that I learned was Bream's. Having previously played 'cello I was captivated by the open, ringing texture that the guitar brought to the piece. However, there are some distinctly odd elements in that arrangement (not least the opening basses) so I discarded it for Duarte's first version which I thought handled the music with a slightly gentler touch.

The argument behind such editions went along the lines of (as I recall), "What would Johnnie Bach have done if he was writing for the guitar?" I bought it back then. Though I now choose to play the suite quite differently I still enjoy performances in that guitaristic style - they certainly shine another light on things.
Mr Kite wrote:You're right - they're quarter notes and descend to the A, but since it is in C he didn't have much choice (or maybe that's part of the reason he thought C was better).
I assume that you mean Yates' basses here? I don't own his version.
Mr Kite wrote:I am not clear whether you are saying in the earlier part of your post that the things you mention are important in creating the cello feeling,
Yes. The "cello feeling" is a composite perception, derived from range and timbre certainly, but also the shaping of phrase due to the idiosyncrasies of technique and tuning which obviously affect such factors as articulation and duration.
Mr Kite wrote:or in playing these suites,
Not my intention but yes that too.
Mr Kite wrote:or just in playing generally.
Well at least in baroque works.
Mr Kite wrote:Could you expand on that? At the risk of boring you ... I realise I don't quite have closure.
Not boring - but time consuming to give a full and proper answer. I recognise all of your "chapters" and especially the problem of integrating the expression of "small phrase" rhetoric within longer units.

An obvious example beginning at measure 1:
bwv_1007_prel.png
The initial triadic arpeggio is a principal cell, featured throughout the entire suite. There is obvious value in exploring how we express this simple three-note figure - rising, open textured, culminating on the mediant: e.g. should any notes be stressed? How long should the tonic ring under the other two? Opinions may vary.

The second important figure (three note motif marked by bracket in the image) overlaps the first i.e. mediant, super-tonic, mediant. Again this figure features throughout the seven movements - how far do we go in delineating its shape, especially when it may share notes with or appear within other, longer phrases? e.g. should the first two notes always be slurred?

This expository idea plays out over the first four measures - simultaneously we have increasing harmonic tension to take account of and a rising secondary voice - dominant to tonic. No wonder that, when first exploring these gestures, one can become so focused on the minutiae that continuity is forsaken along the way. We don't live in a musical world where this kind of rhetorical manipulation is commonplace - it's difficult for us ... at first.

You probably nailed it with 3) and 4); if you really want to get to grips with Bach then understanding small phrase groupings is essential - however ... it's like speaking. The individual words, their weight, tenor and enunciation must be clear but they need to be part of a sentence, itself within the context of a paragraph or even larger structure to deliver their meaning.

Hope that helps a bit.
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Mr Kite

Re: Bach Cello Suites: Richard Wright arrangements

Post by Mr Kite » Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:49 pm

Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:I assume that you mean Yates' basses here? I don't own his version.
Yes. Available for free and gratis if you take out a trial subscription with a popular digital library, although I'm not sure all of the material on there is legitimate.
Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:Hope that helps a bit.
Certainly does - also good to know my thought process makes sense to someone else - thanks.

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