MATTHESON, Johann – Air (‘on the G string’) – FOUR CELLOS (or larger ensemble)


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AIR (‘on the G string’) – JOHANN MATTHESON

prepared for FOUR Cellos or Larger Cello Ensemble by David Johnstone


PDF 1 – General Score

PDF 2 – All Individual Cello Parts


EXAMPLE from the beginning of the score:



Johann Mattheson (1681 – 1764) was a German composer, singer, writer, lexicographer, diplomat and music theorist.

Mattheson received a broad liberal education and, aside from general musical training, took lessons in keyboard instruments, violin, composition and singing. By age nine he was singing and playing organ in church and was a member of the chorus of the Hamburg opera. He made his solo debut with the Hamburg opera in 1696 in female roles and, after his voice changed, sang tenor at the opera, conducted rehearsals and composed operas himself. He was cantor at St. Mary’s Cathedral from 1718 until increasing deafness led to his retirement from that post in 1728.

Mattheson was a close friend of George Frideric Handel, although a renowned anecdote is that he nearly killed Handel in a sudden quarrel during a performance of Mattheson’s opera Die unglückselige Kleopatra, Königin von Ägypten in 1704 !

However, Mattheson’s chief occupation from 1706 was as a professional diplomat. He had studied English in school and spoke it fluently. In musical spheres Mattheson is mainly famous as a music theorist. He was the most abundant writer on performance practice, theatrical style, and harmony of the German Baroque period.

He found time to produce a fair quantity of original music too. The bulk of his compositional output was vocal, including eight operas, and numerous oratorios and cantatas. He also wrote a few sonatas and some keyboard music, including pieces meant for keyboard instruction.

This ‘Air’ is a beautiful melody with perfect harmonic accompaniment, and once was famous by violin renditions on the ‘G’ string, so therefore coupling wonderfully with the Bach Air of the same type! Johnstone’s four cello setting maintains the tune on the first voice, whilst the other three cellos play an important harmonic ‘carpet’. This may be played by intermediate cellists – only the second part once very briefly plays in thumb position; however, the first and second cellos do need to be able to read the tenor clef. Also, any of the voices may be doubled.



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