This website presents some music examples from Bach's original parts for Violone: Bach probably wanted this
Continuo music to be performed by an instrument that he called Violone.
Players of modern 'Violone’-reconstructions can use Bach's own Violone-parts as a basis for conclusions about
the identity of Bach's Violone: wether it was an 8 foot or 16 foot instrument, wether it was tuned in fifths or
mainly in fourths, wether it was a 3-, 4-, 5- or six string instrument etc.
The fingerings that I added for 'normal size' cello in some examples to Bach's continuo notes, suggest that in
general a cello is a suitable instrument for playing Bach's continuo music.
In his 1730 Entwurff Bach states 'vacat' for Viola, Violoncello and Violon.
Koch 1802 stills states, that in jumpy passages the sound of the Contra-Violon should not 'in bloß polterndes
Geräusch ausarten'. Did Bach have at his disposal musicians that were as highly trained as modern 16'
In cantata 78 / 2 the Corno-player (in a later performance in the 1740s) saw in his part simple pizzicato
quarter notes, added by Bach himself. If there was an able Violonist available, capable of performing the Bc in
the first movement, there would have been no reason to give the simple special Violone part to another
ad-hoc Violonist. In this later performance there was probably no other Violone player present than the
'Cornist-Violonist'. The eighth notes in the 2nd movement of cantata 78 are given usually to (baroque)
In ‘authentic’ performances ‘Violonists’ should not play in the remaining movements.
A general observation about notes written for the different instruments Bach wanted to use and about the
ambitus of instruments:
For all instruments Bach wrote parts that could be played without ad hoc adaptations or ad hoc octave
transpositions: only in very exceptional cases a note had to be changed e.g. a BB or BBb in wrongly/hastily
transposed organ parts. (NB ad hoc octave transposition on a keyboard instrument like the organ is not
Bach's music itself proves that f ' was the bottom limit of his Fiauti d'Echo in BWV 1049 and of his Fiauti a bec
in BWV 1057, d ' of his Traverso and c ' of his Hautbois. One need not to read instrument manuals of Bach's
time for confirmation about these bottom limits. So we might safely conclude that the bottom note of Bach's
Violone was the C.
If Violonists themselves don’t pass on a persuasive conclusion to me, I'll remain inclined to stick to my own
well founded conclusions that offer a plausible solution for this problem...
Lambert Smit, Boekhorst 7, 8431 SR OOSTERWOLDE (FR), Holland
From the pre-Leipzig period 7 original performance parts for Violone are still extant; they belong to BWV 18,
63 (Violone et Organo), 71, 132 (Fragment till mvmt 3, m. 44), 162 (St.Nr 9(13) Violono), 185 (nr 11
Violone, mainly autograph), 199 Weimar 12-8-1714.
There are 38 movements that contain pre-Leipzig Violone music.
From the Leipzig period 11 original performance parts for Violone are still extant: they belong
to BWV 42, 49, 62, 78, 100, 170, 182, 195, 210, 214, 241.
There are 58 movements that contain Violone music from the Leipzig period.
Music examples are selected from these 38 + 58 movements.
List of BWV nrs of these examples:
BWV 62,4: all strings in the bass clef [308 KB]
18/3 with 'cello' fingering [67 KB]
18/3 without fingering [63 KB]
42/6 & 3 [134 KB]
63/4 & 7 [111 KB]
132/2 [66 KB]
162/5 with 'cello' fingering [84 KB]
162/5 without fingering [76 KB]
170/1 & 5 [173 KB]
185/2 & 3 [48 KB]
The examples taken from BWV 42/7 + 30/6 + 6/6 + 159/5 + 151/5; 195/1 & 2; 210/10 + 214/4; 214/5; 241
illustrate the question of crossing voices and bass lines doubled in two octaves or – as consequence of 16’
Violoni - doubling in three octaves.
42/7, 30/6, 6/6, 151/5, 159/5; [187 KB]
195/1 & 2 [448 KB]
210/10, 214/4 [102 KB]
214/5 [201 KB]
241 [59 KB] and autograph parts [247 KB]
Prelude of cello suite IV can be played, using violin fingering, with very few shifts on a small 'horizontally' held
Violoncello: this is shown in the example:
1010 Prelude [383 KB]
Original Violone parts