J.S. Bach: Prelude from Cello Suite No. 4


Downloadable Score


Bach’s Prelude from Cello Suite No. 4 transcribed for solo piano from Eleonor Bindman’s new transcription of J.S. Bach Cello Suites for Piano Solo Score!


The Prelude of Suite 4 sounds almost “Romantic” on the piano and is best described by a somewhat overused adjective “beautiful.” What exactly makes it so? Hard to explain, but these arpeggios descending from far above, often traversing 2 octaves, feel like a gentle stream of kindness, of heavenly grace enveloping us all. The 16-note episodes are clouds passing through, only to return us back to equilibrium. This Prelude perfectly illustrates an important “trade secret” of J. S. Bach: starting a pattern on the second note of a measure, instead of on the first one. This compositional device, whether used intentionally or not, is the key to that singular “endless” quality of much of his music, shifting the emphasis from the downbeats of each measure.


The inner patterns of the arpeggios contain rich layers of implied polyphony and this Prelude works in a wide range of tempi (I currently prefer mm 52-54 per half note). Starting at measure 49 and through the end, I would suggest following the directional and harmonic implications of the 16th-note fragments without feeling constrained by diligent counting. And by all means, use that damper pedal for the arpeggios, your foot will land there before you even know it.