On Bach, Marais and Caix d’Hervelois

December 26, 2009

Working through Siblin at the moment and coming up with references, far and wide, to the Bach ‘cello suites. For example, in the inspiring website of Ben Torrey (http://bentorrey.com:2112/blog/?cat=15) who not only plays the first movement of the G major, but also a William Kinglake Saraband (III-13) from the Manchester Gamba book (see also Stephen Yates’ transcriptions for lute).

The VdGSA website has at the moment a transcription of Sheep may safely graze for five viols. The top treble line is interesting because to get the slurs right you play open strings but rarely. The fast notes from C to A on the A string are particularly useful.

Marin Marais – Book V, No.92: Prelude

While I’ve raved before about Minuets 99 and 100 from Marin Marais’ Pieces de viole Book 5, one prelude I’ve done some work on under Jenny Ericksson’s past direction is No.92 from the same book. The harmony/bass line really pulls the soloist along, so it really only makes sense when played with another viol or continuo. Everything is clearly marked by Monsieur Marais in the original and John Hsu’s book explains those markings. Today’s practice was limited to the small bass; will take out the 7-string tomorrow. I baulk at the extension required on my 7-string, notwithstanding the fact that I’ve taken time out to strengthen the left hand by playing guitar and oud, with little effect.

My other favourite Prelude is the very first in the book, No.1. Prelude le Soligni. It precedes the delightful Allemande la Facile and the even more spectacular Sarabande. I rely heavily on the recording by Mieneke van der Velden to bring the score to life.


Caix d’Hervelois – Book V, Suite No.1 in D: Menuet

 With Siblin uppermost in my mind, somewhat more straightforward than any solo dance movements by Bach are ones similar to Caix d”Hervelois from his Book 5, Suite 1 in D.

As with all Minuets of this period, the bowing needs to be consistently strict, push and two pulls in each bar. Inegal in the quavers.As with the aforementioned Marais minuets too, the angularity of the melody requires seamless string-crossing, which feels like jumping off a cliff. Perhaps I should have climbed more trees as a boy. There’s nothing like dancing a minuet and recalling the physical sensations of it: incredibly fast with a giddying sense of dragging the body around, with a strong one beat to the bar! While the beauty of this minuet is singular enough, the addition of the bass continuo makes it even more memorable.


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