Ernest Bloch’s Suites for Solo Cello (B. 93, 94, 97) contain a melodic-harmonic language unlike any other twentieth-century unaccompanied work, and when transcribed for viola, become meaningful additions to the existing viola repertoire. Each movement within these three works has its own distinct dancelike character, much like J.S. Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello (BWV 1007-1012). The melodies contain a persistent lyrical quality, and the harmonies are modal and reminiscent of folk music. Rather than compose an appropriate ending to Bloch’s incomplete Suite for Solo Viola (B. 101), a transcription of Bloch’s Suites for Solo Cello provides violists with more variety and opportunity for musicianship. These works present technical challenges such as rapid string crossings, sudden and vast register changes, complex rhythms and meter, and offer interpretationally rich passages. The level of these difficulties can prepare violists for more challenging twentieth-century works; thus, transcribing the Bloch Suites provides an opportunity to bridge a pedagogical divide in solo viola repertoire.
This project includes the transcriptions of Bloch’s Suites for Solo Cello, a performance edition, and a recording. Included is an overview of why these works are suitable for the viola, how these arrangements help fill a pedagogical gap in the unaccompanied viola repertoire, and insight into the transcription process. The performance recording captures the accessibility of these works for violists wishing to perform them and shows the integrity and variety of each piece by programming them all on a single recital.
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