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Six Suites, BWV 1007-1012 (Van Cleve) - SOLO OB

Composer: Bach, J.S.

Publisher: T.D. Ellis

Edition: 70351


Six Suites, BWV 1007 - 1012
for solo oboe

by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - German Baroque composer

Originally for solo cello, these works have been edited by Libby Van Cleve.

From Dr. Van Cleve:

When I first arranged one of Bach's cello suites for the oboe, more than twenty years ago, it felt like a gutsy, almost sacrilegious act. Now, performers freely borrow repertoire written for other instruments, and the cello suites can be heard on instruments as disparate as the tuba, saxophone, and banjo. Playing them on the oboe doesn't seem so radical. Although some passages are not idiomatic for the instrument, oboists are extremely fortunate to have access to these profound compositions. 

Review by Allan Vogel:

Even though our world is experiencing difficulties, as always, good things are also happening, such as the recent appearance of the edition of Bach’s Six Cello Suites in a new version for oboe by Libby Van Cleve. Her previously published editions of the first three Bach Cello Suites have been my close companions over the past few years and have proved extremely helpful and fulfilling to work on.

Bach’s unaccompanied suites for cello, as well as his partitas and sonatas for violin, form a musical and technical foundation for players of string instruments. For decades, when I heard colleagues in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra warming up, it seemed that they all knew most of this music from memory. One might assume that the works for violin would transcribe more readily to the oboe than these for the cello; however, it seems to me that the cello suites are far more approachable for us oboists.

What is particularly wonderful about Libby Van Cleve’s edition is that she makes these great and challenging pieces much more accessible. In this Age of Urtext, one is used to starting without much help in choosing tempi, articulations, and dynamics. In the final analysis, one must make these decisions for oneself, but it is certainly helpful to have from the outset so many wonderful hints from such a good musician as Libby. Her wide-ranging musical and oboistic achievements and experiences make one inclined to trust her.

Libby makes the pieces approachable and easier to work on. How??

She provides the necessary octave transpositions and offers alternatives in some cases. She supplies excellent breathing marks which offer a sense of structure – you cannot help but notice what key you are landing in, no matter how out of breath you are. She kindly suggests some places where a few notes can be guiltlessly traded for a little oxygen. She gives broad- ranging tempo suggestions that are very helpful. Importantly, Libby gives us excellent articulation suggestions. She comes up with the slurs that you would have arrived at yourself after long study. In the Age of Urtext it takes courage to add anything, but one must. For practicing purposes, it is more than useful to practice everything entirely slurred (you really can feel your wind and fingers!) and also legato tongued. After this work, Libby’s articulations will make everything much easier. As I work on them, I occasionally want to add or change what Libby has done, but eventually I erase my markings and appreciate the quality of the T.D. Ellis Edition’s paper to stand up to the erasures of my own pencil marks.

It is so wonderful that Bach left us so much unaccompanied music that enables us to enter his enlightened world without leaving our own room. The six cello suites are among the very most beloved of all of Bach’s works. Perhaps we feel Bach is talking directly to us with his one single bass voice. (Personally, I feel a special connection through Pablo Casals, who discovered them in an old music bookstore. I played Haydn No. 96 with him when he was 96;the piece, known as the Miracle Symphony, has a fantastic oboe part.) Casals played the Well-Tempered Clavier every day for well over seventy years.

I have made working on a movement of these suites part of my practicing ritual. Having spent a very healthful and edifying fifteen minutes daily for many days on one of the Bach/Libby movements, it is becoming a good habit. Unlike most sweets, finally, we have Suites that you can consume every day and are really good for you.