The 6 most beautiful pieces by Bach to play on the cello
Cellists, this article is for you! We're inviting you to explore a selection of the six most beautiful works by Bach, both original works and arranged for the cello. For each piece, we have included a link to the Tomplay interactive sheet music. Each score is synchronised with an audio recording produced in the studio by us, allowing you to play the cello part accompanied by the piano, a string ensemble or even by a real orchestra for concertos. Happy reading!
1. Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 – I. Prelude
Having at first fallen into obscurity, the Bach Cello Suites were discovered and finally published in 1825, but in spite of their publication, they were not highly regarded, except by some cellists who used them as exercises.
They only came out of their slumber at the beginning of the 1900s. When visiting a music shop with his father, a 13-year-old Catalan cellist called Pablo Casals found an old copy of Bach's Cello Suites. He took them home, started to play them and it was love at first sight. He recorded them some years later.
It took more than 200 years for these miraculous Suites to become known, but once they had been revealed to the world, they entered the pantheon of the most influential works ever written.
The first Bach Cello Suite has become the most well-known. The first Prelude in G Major is radiant and gentle and the first bars are dominated by simple chords creating a great sound.
This most enjoyable Suite is suited to beginners and amateurs, but also offers some challenges for professionals.
Would you like to play the Prelude to Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007? Download the Tomplay sheet music synchronised with the audio recording of the performance by world-renowned Chinese cellist Jian Wang. Listen and be inspired by his performance to learn efficiently and make progress more quickly.
2. Air from the 3rd Suite in D Major (on the G string)
We’re going to look more closely now at the third Suite in D Major, BWV 1068. Unlike the Brandenburg Concertos, these Suites are independent of each other. Specialists even explain that the movements are assemblies, either of recent or dedicated compositions or of different arrangements of previous works.
The famous Air on the G String is the second movement of this orchestral Overture. Its solemn melody appears suspended in time and takes us back to festive moments in the prestigious courts of the time.
We have arranged this sublime Air on the G String for a Quartet (two violins, viola and cello). Give yourself a treat performing this work accompanied by the professional recording of the rest of the ensemble synchronised with the score.
3. Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, BWV 147
Here is another unmissable piece from Bach’s repertoire: "Jesus bleibet meine Freude", translated into English as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, is the final Chorale from Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (“Heart and mouth and deed and life”), BWV 147, a religious Cantata composed in Leipzig and performed on the occasion of the festival of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary.
This work was composed for four soloists plus a choir of four mixed voices (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), as well as trumpet, oboe, violin, viola and basso continuo.
From the very beginning, the melody of the Chorale is essentially composed of triolets. Several arrangements of this work exist for solo piano and also for four hands.
The version of Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring for cello and piano in the Tomplay catalogue allows you to play the cello part accompanied by the professional recording of the piano part. You can change the tempo of the accompaniment to suit you so that you can get this piece into shape in the best conditions.
4. Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067 - VII. Badinerie
▶️ Play the arrangements of the Badinerie from Suite No. 2, BWV 1067 by Bach, for cello and orchestra
As in the majority of Bach’s Overtures, the second Suite ends in a very lively finale. Playing the joyful, bright Badinerie presents some difficulty for the soloist, who has to demonstrate his or her worth throughout this Suite.
It is constructed in the form of an Italian concerto, on very German foundations. Its composition was largely inspired by Lully, the instigator of the model of this kind of Parisian Suite at the court of King Louis XIV. Scholars have even wondered about the relative absence of Suites in Bach’s repertoire and have concluded that he did not think he had sufficient mastery of the genre to publish more, which is astonishing, given their success!
Playing the Badinerie is an excellent way of working on your speed and interpretation. In addition, our arrangements of this work for several levels makes it accessible to all cellists! With the Tomplay interactive sheet music, you can not only play the Badinerie accompanied by the Baroque orchestra, but also slow down the tempo of the accompaniment to work on the score at your own rhythm.
5. Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1008
We introduced above in this article the Cello Suite No. 1 and here we're inviting you to explore the second Suite, BWV 1008!
If the six Suites were divided into two equal halves, Suites No. 2 and No. 5 would each form a central solemn section in a minor key, unlike Suite No. 1 which is written in a major key.
Although not technically demanding, the second Suite evokes a world full of dark rooms and melancholy balls, far from the sunny landscapes of Suite No. 1.
Would you like to tackle the score of Bach's second Suite, BWV 1008? Thanks to our partnership with Deutsche Grammophon, the Tomplay sheet music of Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1008 for solo cello is synchronised with the audio recording of the performance by Chinese cellist Jian Wang, which you can listen to following the sheet music, simply for pleasure or for inspiration.
6. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I – Prelude and Fugue No. 22 in B flat Minor, BWV 867
The Prelude and Fugue in B flat Minor, BWV 867, is the 22nd couple of Preludes and Fugues from the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach, compiled around 1722.
After the clarity of the previous Prelude in B flat Major, Bach leads his listener to an intensely painful and difficult to play diptych on the keyboard.
Both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier are considered as references by a large number of composers and teachers. At first recopied by musicians and then published at the beginning of the 19th century, they have been used since the time of their composition for studying the art of playing the keyboard and the art of composition, as well as for the pleasure they have given music lovers.
To conclude this article, we are inviting you to play an arrangement of the melancholy Prelude and Fugue No. 22, BWV 867 for a string Quartet (two violins, viola and cello). With the Tomplay sheet music, you can play the cello part accompanied by a high-quality recording of the rest of the quartet synchronised with the score.