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Bach – 6 suites for cello solo (Klengel edition)

Bach – 6 suites for cello solo (Klengel edition). You can download the PDF sheet music Bach – 6 suites for cello solo (Klengel edition) on this page.

The idea of beginning a musical composition with a prelude or introductory movement appears in most cultures and time periods of music. Many of Bach’s best-known compositions from the Cöthen period begin with a prelude; these include the first volume of The Well-Tempered Clavier, Part 1; the six English Suites; the six Partitas for  harpsichord; four of the six works for solo violin (all three Sonatas and the last of the three Partitas); and all six of the Cello Suites. Before discussing the preludes of the Cello Suites it would be helpful to examine preludes in general, then to examine specifically the preludes of The Well-Tempered Clavier, and finally to compare them to the preludes of the Cello Suites. In a sense, this chapter serves as a prelude to the remaining chapters in the book; it presents many of the basic concepts and terms to be used in subsequent chapters.

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Bach’s Cello Suites are frequently cited as being among the clearest exemplars of the Baroque suite form in its most mature stage. A study of the earlier history of this form shows that it was not a simple, unbroken evolution that led to these exemplars. The etymology of the term “suite” is from the French word suivez, meaning “to follow.” In the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries the word “suite” denoted a set or a succession of dance movements. In music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was also used for collections of varied movements that were not necessarily dance movements (e.g., Debussy, Rachmaninoff) or for excerpts from larger works (e.g., Tchaikowsky, Ravel, Stravinsky).
According to the textbook definition, the Baroque suite consists of four principal dance movements (listed here with their standard single letter abbreviations): Allemande (A), Courante (C), Sarabande (S), and Gigue (G) These principal movements may be introduced by a Prelude (P) and/or augmented by inserting “optional” (O) dances between the Sarabande and the Gigue. These optional dances included the Minuet, Bourrée, Gavotte, and others. The resulting pattern of movements may be summarized as follows. Items in parentheses may not be included in all suites. (P) A C S (O) G The Bach Cello Suites fit this definition perfectly; each suite includes all six movement types. The movements of a Baroque suite are in the same key, or at least all based on the same tonic. This differs from the tonal plan of sonatas, symphonies, or concertos, all of which usually have at least one movement in a different key. A Baroque suite is often described as a collection of individual movements of different character; however, sometimes one or more movements of a suite may represent obvious or subtle variants of preceding movements. This might appear to be a contradiction, but it is possible for a movement to be
a variation of another movement, and at the same time have a strikingly different character. Bach wrote over forty works that could be considered as suites. Some of them, such as the French Suites or the English Suites, were originally entitled simply “Suites.” The national titles were added later, not by Bach. Some works in suite form have special titles, such as the four Overtures for orchestra, the six Partitas from the first volume of the Clavier-Übung, and the three Partitas for solo violin. The solo violin works were actually called “Partitas” in the original manuscript.

Six Suites for unaccompanied cello were written for prince Leopold, who was an accomplished gamba player. Their unprecedented technical difficulty, however, would seem rather to reflect the playing of the virtuoso court cellist Christian Ferdinand Abel (1682-1761). Bach reveals his own penetrating insight into the performing techniques of the cello, and in particular an awareness of its dual capacity as both con-tinuo (harmony) and solo (melody) instrument: he explores its potential for harmonic implication with wide-ranging leaps (as in the Courante of No.1), double stopping, and bariolage effects, where a harmony note is used as a pivot around which the melody is developed (as in the Gigue of No.2).

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