Bach’s cantatas with violoncello piccolo - part 10
Bwv 199, the famous “viola” cantata, was later turned into a Violoncello (da Spalla) one!
The BWV199 is one of the most famous soprano cantatas and is also known to be the viola cantata, the only obbligato part written by J. S. for viola. It’s the Chorale n.6 in the cantata, a beautiful part describing the moment the sinner finds redemption by contemplating Jesus’ wounds.
That viola solo happened in Weimar in 1714, but already on the following performance, Bach rewrote the part and gave it to the cellist who also played the oboe in the same performance. The oboe, by the way, has a beautiful, moving obbligato part in the first aria.
Later, in 1720 in Köthen, the part was given to the gamba viol.
In Leipzig’s sets of parts, there is this new part in treble clef, sub-octaves, which is the key usually used for violoncello piccolo, even if the instrument is not clearly stated, so we cannot be sure. Leipzig's first performance was on the 8th of August 1723, so three months after Bach’s appointment as Thomaskantor and two and half months before the BWV 180, which is the first one marked as Violoncello piccolo. The general idea is that this part in treble clef was prepared for a later performance and not for the first in 1723. However, being this a part that was intended for viola and later turned to cello and gamba, it’s most likely that in Bach’s mind, the violoncello piccolo, maybe played da spalla, was the perfect instrument for it.
The viola part is played one octave higher, so it’s lighter. You can easily imagine how, if played with a Violoncello da Spalla, it could maintain the same agility but add more significance to such a pivotal moment as a redemption.
The viola part is in F, while the cello piccolo version is in G. The range is from D2 to G4, and the whole part is quite middle range, with little use of the first and the fifth string. But the writing is very much the violoncello piccolo writing, with jumping 16 notes.
You can download free parts at the following links:
Score with the violoncello piccolo part in G
As far as I know, there is no recording or video available with Violoncello da Spalla. Who will be the first? If you know one, please post it in the comments!
Updates from our workshop
We’re getting on with carving the backs. They are almost done now!
Featured video of the week
An oldies but goldies video!