Bach transcribed for keyboard

J.S. Bach: Six Suites for Solo Violoncello transcribed with embellished reprises for keyboard (harpsichord) by Winsome Evans, in three volumes:
Suites I & II PRB No. B059, list price US$30
Suites III & IV PRB No. B060, list price US$35
Suites V & VI PRB No. B061, list price US$35

J.S. Bach: Partita for Solo Flute transcribed with embellished reprises for keyboard (harpsichord) by Winsome Evans
PRB No. B062, list price US$20

As we all know, Bach’s music is virtually bomb proof – no matter what you do it to (and let’s face it, there have been some arrangements that are wackier than others!) it seems to survive. In this case, Winsome Evans has devoted hours to adapting Bach’s six cello suites and solo flute partita to the keyboard. On the page the transcriptions look just like Bach’s keyboard music, and for anyone who has played through the extant corpus and is keen for more, Evans has also provided embellished repeats of every movement of every piece. I am in two minds about that approach – while less experienced players might be glad not to have to improvise decorations, others might find (a) that the written-out variants stifle their creativity since one has to concentrate as one plays or risk losing one’s place in the music and (b) that the continual page turning that all the extra music requires becomes tiresome; in short, something of an embarrassment of riches that has practical implications. If that were the end of it, then all would be well. Alas, it is not. After a Preface that goes into far greater detail than really it need do about the relationship between Evans’s transcriptions and the originals (as if this were an Urtext edition of Bach keyboard music, in fact), vol. 1 of cello music has three pages of Editorial Notes that include no fewer than 16 ossias (Bar 23 of the Gigue of Suite 1 is spectular in inspiring four ossias!) I am sure many keyboard players will enjoy playing this “new” music, but I sincerely doubt whether any will have the slightest concern for the minutiae of Winsome Evans’s clever extrapolations. For those who do, surely it would be better simply to refer them either to a good modern edition, or to the two original sources (both of which are available online!) I recommend simply enjoying the beautifully idiomatic realisations of these marvellous pieces, beautifully printed as ever by PRB, and ignore the introductory matter.

Brian Clark