Post by Stanley Yates
Of course it's easy to find example of key duplication. However, it's
even easier to demonstate that when instrumental idioms are not a
restricting factor (such as in the Brandernburg cycle) Bach clearly
prefered varied keys in cyclic works - for example, the 6 unaccompanied
violin works, the 6 accompanied violin sonatas, the 6 French Suites,
the 6 Keyboard Partititas, etc. In fact, Bach's interest in comprehensive
key variation is empimized in probally his most famous works: the
Well-tempered Claviar and the Inventions and Sinfonias.
Also, in the few cycles in which Bach duplicates a tonality (such as
the English Suites and the cello suites), the duplication is
accomampanied with a corresponding change of modality as well. D major
and d-minor are not the same key and you will generally not find two
suites of a cycle in the major tonality (or minor modality). But this
is simple "bon gout" and is so obvious that it really doesn't warrant
any kind of historical sampling or analytic justification.
You're saying Bach never repeated keys in a cycle of pieces, except
when he did, and those don't count. But I'll grant you this point.
Clearly, Bach intended that no major or minor key was to be repeated
in the cello suites.
But one might ask why you preserved this intention of Bach's, but not
others. Bach wrote the BWV 1007 Prelude to exploit the open strings of
the cello. In mm. 31-36, the pedal A falls on an open string. Clearly
this was intentional--it frees the left hand to sing the melody
against the open string pedal. In D Major on the guitar, this effect
is preserved. In C Major on the guitar, this effect is lost. While one
might disagree with the Ponce, Duarte, and other arrangements in D
Major, one can't deny that they better preserve Bach's original intent
compared to your arrangement in C Major.
We might frame the question of key choice thus: is it more important
to preserve the variety of keys across all six suites, or is it more
important to preserve the musical effect within each individual piece?
For me at least, the answer is suggested by the following. Preserving
key variety is an issue only when all six suites are performed in one
sitting. Preserving the musical effect within each piece is an issue
every time the piece is performed. We're comparing an issue that comes
up rarely to an issue that comes up always. So in this case I would
opt for preserving the musical effect of the individual piece.
You've suggested that making an arrangement is a balance between the
arranger's taste and the original composer's taste. Very true, and
clearly your taste was a strong factor in your arrangement of the BWV
1007 Prelude. It's obvious from your Bach recording that you take a
keyboard oriented view of performing these suites. Guitar (or more
generally speaking, string) effects such as vibrato, portamento,
varied tone color, and left hand slurs are used sparingly. I submit
that your keyboard oriented view made it less likely that you would
preserve string oriented textures in your arrangement. This is a valid
view insofar as you can make a compelling case for it in your playing.
And that, of course, is up to listeners to decide for themselves.
By the way, it's fashionable nowadays to dismiss Ponce's arrangement
as hopelessly inauthentic. But Bach himself freely arranged other
composers' music in a way that had little to do with the original
composer's taste. In this light, maybe Ponce was more historically
correct than is commonly thought.
Cleveland Heights, OH