Sheet Music Review: Bärenreiter’s Jubilee Edition of Bach’s Cello Suites Arr. by Chung Park for Solo Viola and Solo Cello

The suites are among the highlights of 18th-century string literature and have also long been performed on viola

By Mary Nemet | From the May-June 2024 issue of Strings Magazine

The publishing house of Bärenreiter celebrated its 100th birthday in 2023, and to commemorate this milestone, it released a wealth of new jubilee editions, many of them central works in its catalog. The venerated Suites for solo cello by Johann Sebastian Bach is one such publication, this time arranged by Chung Park. The suites are among the highlights of 18th-century string literature and have also long been performed on viola. Since all autographs of the original cello suites are lost, and surviving sources are often at odds with each other regarding phrasing and bowing, musicologist and violist Park has based his arrangement on earlier Bärenreiter urtext publications of the cello suites edited by Woodfull-Harris, Schwemer, and Talle. 


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J.S.Bach: Six Suites for cello solo, BWV 1007–1012, Arr. for viola solo by Chung Park, Bärenreiter
J.S.Bach: Six Suites for cello solo, BWV 1007–1012, Arr. for viola solo by Chung Park, Bärenreiter, $30.95

In the absence of the original manuscript, five sources were examined: a text prepared by Anna Magdalena Bach, the second by Johann Peter Kellner, a third by Schober, an anonymous manuscript by Johann Troeg, and a first Paris edition by Janet & Cotelle, ca. 1826. While earlier editors mainly relied on Anna Magdalena as their primary source, Park has mined all available texts.

Despite such a complex source situation, Park reflects the latest state of research in a clear edition devoid of additional markings. He urges violists to study the various available texts and also make their own judgments regarding slurs in performance. Originally intended for a five-stringed instrument, the sixth suite is transposed into G major to facilitate string crossing. However, the editor encourages performers to seek out a five-stringed viol, which he maintains best conveys the composer’s intentions.