Tempo in Cello Suites

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Stephen Faulk
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Stephen Faulk » Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:32 pm

I know everyone hates me and I'm ok with that. LOL
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Conall
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Conall » Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:29 pm

In terms of 5ths tuning I "kind of" use it in suite 1 Prelude since for it (& only that movement in the suite) it works on my 8 string as:

CdeGDgAe (capitals = Cello open strings of course). This allows harp like arpeggios, open A (2nd string) pedal and (to my ears) cello-like sonority. I also tried raising the 3rd G to A instead of lowering 2nd B but I found the former technically better - and at fellow DC member Crofty's suggestion.

I suppose if I had a 4 string guitar / strung it with only CGDA I might get closer to cello sonority but I'm not sure the extra technical demands would be worth it.

While I largely agree that cello slurring needs to be taken with a pinch of salt I've found that using some of the suggestions of cellists as the basis from which to come to our own decisions as guitarists are at least as good or better than the slurring suggested in existing guitar arrangements.

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:39 pm

To go some way towards answering the question, firstly, no, the movements must not all be the same tempo - far from it.
Aside from the Preludes, which despite some dance rhythms are not dances,
i. Allemande - fundamentally stately. Usually played too fast IMO - don't be fooled by the fast note values. Think of a floating 4 in the bar, decorous, a little pompous.
ii. Courante - means Running in French. Think bustling rather than rushing. Texture is often broken chords. Btw a Corrente is the Italian equivalent, is usually a little faster and lighter of texture.
iii. Saraband - the turncoat of the suite, when first danced in Europe was fast and lascivious. In Baroque is very slow (though still a dance!) can be very cerebral, e.g. Suite 5, or sensual. Extra stresses often on beat 3 or 2.
iv. the "galanteries" e.g. Menuets, Bourrées, Gavottes, can follow the Saraband. Minuet/Menuet is a little rustic, the Menuet 2 often more notably so, with implied drones like bagpipes. Tempo is delicate, the dance has an 'up-step' on beat 1. Bourrées often more rough, can be a little quicker, Gavottes a bit the same.
v. Gigue - means Jig, the fastest and most energetic movement.

The point overall is to vary the tempi across the suite so that both the national-like implied character is present, and so that the whole makes an agreeable contrast and arc from beginning to end. In ascending order of tempo for the main four dances its Saraband, Allemande, Courante, Gigue, so one can see how the suite manages intensity, variety, and a satisfyingly exciting finale. Preludes and Galanteries complicate everything. A prelude almost by definition needs to be considered in isolation as a piece but also in context of the suite that follows. In probably all cases it will be faster than the Allemande. Menuets etc basically fit in with what's on either side, at the very least, even a fairly excitable Bourrée should never over-shadow the Gigue that will follow it.

So if one is playing only some of the movements, what to do? The issue of balancing tempo and intensity across the whole suite is not present, but still the fundamental character of the dance should ideally be present.
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Stephen Faulk
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Stephen Faulk » Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:25 am

I agree with everything you said about tempi, although to me the preludes are open season tempo wise. You can use it like a slow movement if you want. Generally the template has been to make them faster than the Allemande, but it ok to take it the same tempo, because the preludes are fantasies, except for the definite fugue in the 5th prelude. The 5th sounds good taken fairly slow, and the 2nd in D minor can be played fast or taken down to great effect.

There's a book by Eric Siblin called 'The Cello Suites' he's not a musician, he's a journalist, but the book is not bad at all in tracking the origins of the French suite that the cellos solo works are modeled after. It's a book that could add a lot of information to ones understanding of the suites. I read it when it first came out and discussed it with a professional cello teacher friend of mine and she also gave it good marks. ( I'm speaking for people who are not already professional teachers who want to expand their knowledge, teachers would know a lot of it from music history.

If anyone wants to bait me into a discussion on this by making fun of what I said in the other thread about Bach suites I'm happy to disabuse you of your ignorant notions, otherwise I'm happy to keep to myself. The only cancer is a closed mind, and I'm in no way advocating that people should not play the suites on the guitar.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:13 am

Stephen Faulk wrote:If anyone wants to bait me into a discussion on this by making fun of what I said in the other thread about Bach suites ...
Eh? What other thread Stephen? Please link it. Having also studied 'cello I have loads of ignorant notions.

I'm not averse to a bit of disabusing either - it's my opinion that most cellists don't understand JSB, playing the suites like teenagers showing off their Malmsteen licks.

I read and enjoyed the Siblin by the way - was in hospital recovering from surgical treatment for that which shall not be named, suffering excruciating pain and surviving on morphine/reading the suites through. I found it (the book) refreshing in its approach - a welcome change of tenor from the usual "historical" tomes and engaging enough to take me out of my circumstances. I recommend it even for those who already have a broad knowledge for whom it might be considered "a light read".

Stephen Faulk
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Stephen Faulk » Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:38 am

I'll have to find it later, I'm off to hear something called jazz played on a piano of all things.

I think we should talk about tempo and stick closer to the OP theme.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

Conall
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Conall » Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:17 am

OK, how about some specifics?

Your preferred tempo in metronome BPM terms please for the Sarabande of the first suite?

I have tried moderately slow to very slow and I know that elsewhere sarabandes have sometimes been described as "stately".

I confess I like the above sarabande very slow since it's character seems to require it. It's nice to be able to milk those gorgeous notes & chords for all their worth. It also gives more time for expressive & fairly expansive ornamentation.

The disadvantage of v slow tempo is the fact everything is exposed. Every single squeak, buzz, muffle, unintended overtone is as clear as your most beautiful note when you record - it's very frustrating - and arguably more difficult to play cleanly when recording pieces played at such a slow tempo!

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sat Dec 08, 2018 6:38 pm

Conall wrote:
Sat Dec 08, 2018 9:17 am
Your preferred tempo in metronome BPM terms please for the Sarabande of the first suite?
Not sure who you're asking, but ... don't think in terms of BPM. Its a very easy think to want to fall back on, but there are so many variables that even mentioning a range of values doesn't really work.

One thing I do with students with this kind of piece is get them to play it far too slowly - so much that the lines simply no longer connect, the music falls apart. Great, we know now what too slow is. Gradually get faster until the lines join up again. Often that, or just a little more movement, is about right.

Yes it does mean everything is very exposed.

The Siblin book is superb, well worth getting.

If I may;

Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

Conall
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Conall » Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:33 pm

I was asking anyone who cared to contribute.

I just had a quick check - I play the sarabande of the 1st suite at about 30 bpm give or take a beat or 2.

Stephen Faulk
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Stephen Faulk » Sun Dec 09, 2018 2:57 am

That is great, is that the Delcamp arrangement? I like that piece on guitar because it's spare.

Casals taught the intermediate students the same way you teach them. He broke them into units of a few to several measures and did one a week until the whole piece was covered and then doubled back put it together. He wanted each interval to be heard carefully. I like is too because reminds me of Webern, and the things to come. It's pointillist.
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sun Dec 09, 2018 9:58 pm

Stephen Faulk wrote:
Sun Dec 09, 2018 2:57 am
That is great, is that the Delcamp arrangement? I like that piece on guitar because it's spare.
.... I like is too because reminds me of Webern, and the things to come. It's pointillist.
The sarabande in the video is the arrangement in The Baroque Book (Chanterelle). Yes its supremely cerebral and esoteric, similar to the subject of the F minor fugue book 1 of the 48.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)
Simon Ambridge 'Hauser' (2018)

Baloo
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Baloo » Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:32 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:39 pm
To go some way towards answering the question, firstly, no, the movements must not all be the same tempo - far from it.
...
I'm the OP and had not checked back in a while - just signed in to post about something completely different but saw this and wanted to say thanks very much.

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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Crofty » Tue Dec 25, 2018 6:11 pm

Conall wrote:
Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:33 pm
I was asking anyone who cared to contribute.

I just had a quick check - I play the sarabande of the 1st suite at about 30 bpm give or take a beat or 2.
I'm probably around 36 to 38 Conall. The important thing [for me] is achieving a balance whereby the 1/4 note pulse is clear but the 1/16th notes don't sound rushed.

Paul

Conall
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Conall » Tue Dec 25, 2018 9:24 pm

Crofty wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 6:11 pm
Conall wrote:
Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:33 pm
I was asking anyone who cared to contribute.

I just had a quick check - I play the sarabande of the 1st suite at about 30 bpm give or take a beat or 2.
I'm probably around 36 to 38 Conall. The important thing [for me] is achieving a balance whereby the 1/4 note pulse is clear but the 1/16th notes don't sound rushed.

Paul
Well I'll admit that, contrary to what you'd expect, I find it harder to play slowly than at a moderate pace. It's more difficult to stop speeding up and extraneous noises become more obvious.

However I still like it at a slow pace. It has a solemn grace that seems to benefit from an unhurried but regular tempo. I like also that it allows more time to put some expression in the ornaments and more space for improvisation.

But I'm sure it can work well at your tempo too as long as, as you say, the 16th notes don't sound rushed.

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Tony Hyman
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Re: Tempo in Cello Suites

Post by Tony Hyman » Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:40 am

DerekB wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 6:56 pm
I am working on Stanley Yates's edition of the Cello Suites. He has a lot of detailed information on performance. He quotes contemporaries of Bach who commented on his brisk tempi when he was performing.

It is worth noting that the suites are in increasing levels of difficulty for the cello which applies more or less to their difficulty on the guitar. If you really enjoy the suites (and I am finding more and more to enjoy in them) it is worth buying a complete set. Opinions differ on which is the best edition. Yates's makes some of the movements easier to play than many but not all of them sound as good. For example, the Prelude of the first suite sounds far better in D major rather than C major.
I must say I also enjoy working slowly through Yates' book. To me, the difference in keys is entirely a matter of taste. Regarding the Prelude Suite 1, why not learn it in both keys, if one has the time? Yet in the context of the Suite in general and Yates' intention ,the key of C would seem appropriate considering Mr Yates' explanation on p 193, "Another important characteristic of the Prelude is that it sets the overall character or Affektof the suite, providing a cohesiveness that unifies the diverse dance movements that follow it."(Yates.J.S.Bach:Six UnaccompaniedCelloSuites...)

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