Day 27: Suite No. 5 in C minor, Courante

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

Today was another tempo-rethinking day. My impulse is to play both the Allemande and Courante of the C minor suite slowly, because the melancholy turns of the melodies in both seem to beg to be lingered on. Still, I think it’s preferable to pull the Courante’s tempo up a bit so that you can bring out the full effect of the ascending pentachord in the bassline.

Here’s the first four bars, notated at pitch for ease of reading:

and here’s the underlying bassline that I was trying to bring out:

While preparing the Courante, it’s been really interesting to examine the way Bach wrote the scordatura in terms of the implied fingerings. Sometimes he “lapses” and writes at pitch instead, and it really makes me wonder what he wanted the performer to do. Or was it simply an error?

Take, for example, the very first bar.

If this were written with scordatura and the implication that we were to cross to the tuned-down A string for the Gs and A flat, it would have been written like this (I include suggested fingerings for added clarification):

But the thing is that it’s not written this way. What’s implied is a fingering that would keep you on the D string the whole time.

The problem with this is that it’s wretchedly awkward to find a fingering that works. I played around with various fingerings (here are two of the ones I tried)

but none of them satisfied my desire to hear a clean, flowing line undisrupted by audible shifts.

I actually ended up doing the fingering from the first example, i.e. using the A string so that I wouldn’t have to do any shifts. It’s not what’s indicated by the way the notes are written, but it sounded better…..

Today’s video.

Today’s practice list: C minor Courante, Sarabande, Gavottes I & II; D minor Sarabande.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s