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"Cello Prelude 1", J.S. Bach
Transcription and Fingering:
Renato Bellucci

Prelude BWV 998

Bach manuscript
Bach manuscript

Preludes are, generally speaking,  "appetizers" for the suite. They introduce the key and many musical ideas which will be developed in the movements (dances) that will follow.

In Bach's case, Preludes acquire such a dimension that they stand alone as complete units, displaying all the German genius' creativity and spirit. 

Oldest Prelude
Oldest known prelude ca. 1400

Above is a fragment of the oldest known prelude. You can read  praeambula in the title (second word in the title). Preludes were originally meant for church organs. They were  referred to as: "Crude and shapeless wanderings.. uninfluenced even remotely by song or dance.. fingers wander idly over the noisy keys presumably in order to loosen them up." 

This description is probably very accurate especially since it comes from a time when music was not a free art form but was strictly associated to other activities such as dance or prayer. The praeambula was the first spark of an amazing revolution which would be coined in the words art music. 

Bach was the essence of art music. He dedicated all his work to God but to Johannes, music was meant "to be worthy of" God. Therefore, when his genius was freed from the strict musical forms of the time and was allowed to wander  in a free form such as the prelude, semi-miracles would result. 

This is the reason why Bach preludes can stand alone as great masterworks. The soul of the composer stands out in every measure.

Hear me play: Prelude 1 for Cello, from my CD "Guitar Celebration"

Cello Prelude staff 1

Click here for TAB

Video 1

Analysis:
I used to slur the last two 16th notes of the first group. I no longer do. Nevertheless, you try both and decide accordingly. In the video I play both so as to give you an idea.  Remember to tune string 6 to D. The repeating D at the base is called pedal (from the pedal of the Baroque organ). It is also Ostinato (Italian for stubborn) because it repeats relentlessly. It creates the still background over which the moving arpeggio contrasts and builds majestically. 
Mail Renato Bellucci renato@mangore.com
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