Thoughts on Bach’s Second Solo Suite Prelude by Sergein Yap

I have had the opportunity to study the Bach Cello Suites with many different teachers, from Romantic interpreters to ones that insist on a more historically informed style. Regardless of what performance style you subscribe to, I think a very useful resource to have is a copy of the Anna Magdalena manuscript (perhaps aided by a magnifying glass). Though not Bach’s original manuscript, it is the closest thing we have to his own.

When trying to figure out suitable bowings, it’s important to take the time to hash out the bowings yourself with the manuscript. There are times when it’s quite difficult to decipher where slurs begin and end. When you find yourself in this situation, referencing an edition of the suites edited using the Anna Magdalena manuscript can be helpful. I have used the Bärenreiter cello edition (which comes with facsimiles of the various sources) and Anner Bylsma’s book, Bach, the Fencing Master (which includes a transcribed edition for the viola of suites 1–3).

Ivo is fond of using a metaphor about reflections and symmetry relating to bowing patterns. He sees this prelude as one walking about the inside of a large space, such as a cathedral, observing the architecture (arches, pillars, etc.) for symmetry. One lesson that I have taken from this metaphor is that one should choose bowings that add variety and avoid making extended patterns sound overly repetitive or belabored. More importantly, bowings and the execution of them (bow speed, amount of bow, contact point, and where you are in the bow) should serve the music and one’s interpretation, highlighting important points of tension/release in the harmony.

Something that I have recently been asking myself is if at points of release where I linger and take time, do I always need to give time back? My issue is that I tend to sound as though I am rushing and falling a bit forward when I give time back. Using rubato without feeling the need to arrive at the downbeat of the following measure in a metronomic manner is something I am working on incorporating much more.


• mm. 10–12 into the arrival at m. 13 (III)

extended pattern of 1 separate, 3 slurred with beat 3 of mm. 11 and 12 breaking from the pattern with separate bows.

0124a first example

0124b first example continued

• mm. 21–23

1 separate, 3 slurred pattern for 3 measures. Slight decrescendo into m. 23 to highlight the g-sharp, which creates the vii07/V harmony.

0124c second example

• mm. 44–48

On beat 2 of each measure, play as 3 slurred, 1 separate—The slur on beat 2 emphasizes the A Major pedal up until m. 47, where the harmony changes to g-sharp viio4/2/V

0124d third example

However you decide to play m. 48 regarding the length and speed of rolling the chord, it is the climax of the movement and is a dramatic exclamation on the vii06 harmony.

• mm. 59–63

In the last 5 measures, do you want to treat the chords literally and play them as the dotted-half-note value, simply arpeggiate the chords, reference gestures from previous sections (m. 30 for the realization of m. 59), or improvise new material based on these chords?

0124e fourth example

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