Bach Cello Suites on the Double Bass: A New Register

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Although learning Bach’s Cello Suites at pitch on the double bass has only relatively recently become commonplace, they are now featured on music college syllabuses around the world. Virtuoso bassist and conservatoire professor Leon Bosch explains how he introduces the works to his students

Bach has traditionally provided the bedrock of repertoire for violinists and cellists. However, it was the Soviet double bassist Rodion Azarkhin’s stupendous recording of the Chaconne from the Second Partita for solo violin (released in 1975) that first alerted double bassists to the potential for transcribing Bach’s works. The British double bassist H. Samuel Sterling was in the vanguard of this movement, publishing transcriptions of Bach’s Cello Suites BWV1007–12, albeit transposed into a tessitura and keys better suited to the double bass. His transcriptions of the bourrées from the Third Suite (example 1) were for decades required audition pieces for orchestras worldwide.

There are many more transcriptions available nowadays, but it is only relatively recently that learning and performing Bach’s Cello Suites on the bass, at pitch and in their entirety, has become commonplace. They are also now on the syllabuses of many music conservatoires around the world…

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