Jan 18, 2016

Scordatura, too complicated

5th Suite  in C minor  BWV 1011



5th Suite is played with cello whose 1st string is tuned in G; whole tone lower to normal tuning (A). Such tuning is called Scordatura in Italian.

Its advantage is to be able to play the chords of C minor easily. But to write the note is complicated.

Only the notes for 1st string are written whole tone higher. So c (real note) is written as d. But the notes for other strings are written normally. So sometimes it is not clear that the notes of higher a or b are for 1st string (G) or 2nd string (D).

So we had mistaken this note (1st note of bar 170) .

   From the copy of Anna Magdalena Bach:

For a long time, we had considered this note is g (real note) for open 1st string. But it is a mistake. It is a-natural (real note) for 2nd string. Because from next bar, we hear lower pedal point of dominant (G), it is strange to hear the same note before. It must be secondary dominant (dominant of dominant / Doppeldominante) chord like previous bar (bar 169).

Yes, indeed, in the arrangement for lute, Bach uses dominant of dominant chord during 2 bars.

   From bar 167:

   Transposed into C minor (from bar 166):

Bach added the bass notes that don't exist in the Cello Suite, therefore, he had changed the 1st note of bar 170, but the chord is no doubt dominant of dominant.

And if this note is g, it is the same as bar 167 (3 bars before), why did Bach write these notes differently? There is no reason to use different string in the bar 167 and bar 170. It is natural to use 2nd string for the 1st notes from bar 166 to bar 170.

This note is no doubt a-natural (real note) for 2nd string. Of course if you play the 5th Suite with normal tuned cello, you can play this note with open A-string.


  1. Dale Knight HoaglinJan 20, 2016, 1:01:00 AM

    I have gotten accustomed to the "anticipation" of the pedal, or the resolution of the progression being in bar 170, and the figure of the same notes still moving as being a pedal over the chord progression. The G in bar 167 does set up the rising notes on the second string, soon to become A flat, F#, then resolving to the open G for greater emphasis, and the pedal continues inspite of the resolution. Now your idea about A natural opens up new thoughts. But the natural IS missing. Still the lute part is valuable. I must ask what says the lute part in bar 25 of the Allemande. The written G must be a B flat to make the chord progression coherent. Thank you for opening a Pandora's Box.

    1. Thank you for your comment. The natural for A is not missing because 5th (highest) line of the staff is A-natural, not A-flat. Anna Magdalena mistakes the key signature. She writes 5 flats but for A of 5th line, it must be a natural. Source C shows correct key signature.

      About bar 25 of Allemande, I have already written in my blog in Japanese.

      I will write it also in this blog.

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