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8.223403 - Virtuoso Cello Encores (Kliegel, Havenith)

Virtuoso Cello Encores


The violoncello, generally known in a non-sensical abbreviation as the cello, developed as the bass instrument of the violin family in the early sixteenth century. Its emancipation began towards the end of the seventeenth century, when composers occasionally gave the instrument freedom from the bass line. In Bologna at the Basilica of San Petronio, cellist-composers wrote solo sonatas and concerto movements for the cello, while the newly developed concerto grosso allowed occasional virtuosity, with a solo cello included in the group of soloists forming the usual concerti no group. The new century brought full solo concertos for the instrument from composers like Vivaldi in Venice and from Bach in Cöthen a set of six suites for unaccompanied cello. The cello continued to serve a double purpose, as an essential component of the basic string orchestra or the classical string quartet, with occasional excursions into virtuosity. It was left to the 19th century to produce a series of cellist-composers and composers for the cello, drawing inspiration from the compositions of the period for the violin, and eventually providing a smaller but significant romantic repertoire.

Among the great cellists of the present century was Gaspar Cassadó, who was born in Barcelona in 1897. He started to learn the cello at the age of seven and two years later gave his first public concert. In 1910 he became a pupil of Casals in Paris, where he was also influenced by Ravel and his compatriot Manuel de Falla. In 1914 he returned to Barcelona and there studied harmony and counterpoint with his father during the war years, embarking on a career as a soloist with tours throughout Europe and in South America in 1918. His Dance of the Green Devil is a characteristic jeu d’esprit. Cassadó died in Madrid in 1966.

David Popper was a pupil of Goltermann at the Conservatory in Prague, where he had been born in 1843, the son of the Prague Kantor. He started his virtuoso career in 1863, working often with Hans von Bülow. In 1868 he became principal cellist at the Vienna Court Opera and later joined the Hellmesberger Quartet. From 1896 until his death in 1913 he taught at the Budapest Conservatory. Popper wrote extensively for the cello, providing useful studies and seventy or so attractive salon pieces, in addition to more substantial concertos and a Requiem for three cellos and orchestra. His choice of Russian melody for his Fantasy, Opus 43, allows an interesting development of very characteristic material and much technical display. The latter element finds a less obtrusive place in Popper’s mellifluous Serenade, Opus 54, No. 2.

The famous Air on the G string owes its popular title to the violinist August Wilhelmj. It is in fact the Air from Bach’s D major orchestral Suite, where it is certainly not confined to the G string. The present transcription for cello is by the distinguished American cellist Leonard Rose.

Schubert’s Serenade (Ständchen) enjoys popularity in its original form, as a song, and also in a variety of transcriptions. The song, a setting of a poem by Rellstab, was written in August 1828, three months before Schubert’s death, and was published posthumously in the first volume of Schwanengesang. The Dresden composer Franz Schubert, born in that city in 1808, had just as much right to his name as his more famous older contemporary in Vienna. Named after his father, a double bass player and composer, Franz Schubert studied for a time in Paris, where he became a friend of Chopin, but is probably best remembered for one popular piece, Die Biene (The Bee).

Enrique Granados belongs to an earlier generation of Barcelona composers than Cassadó, who arranged the Intermezzo from the opera Goyescas for cello and piano. The opera itself, the first Spanish opera ever to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where it was staged in January 1916, was derived musically from a set of piano pieces of the same title. The work was inspired by the painting of Goya and is a story of love and jealousy, ending in tragedy. Granados was drowned in the English Channel in 1916, when the ship he had taken from Liverpool was torpedoed, a misfortune he might have avoided, had he not been detained in the United States to play for the President of that country and therefore been obliged to sail on an English ship for the final stage of his voyage home.

Shostakovich wrote a considerable amount of music for films, from his score for New Babylon in 1929 to music in 1970 for King Lear. The Tarantelle, a version of the energetic and restless Neapolitan dance, was written in 1955 for the folk festival scene in The Gadfly. Ravel, Swiss by paternal ancestry and Basque through his mother, combined these two strains in a very French synthesis. His Habanera, well known in a number of arrangements, was originally a piano piece, completed in 1897 and making use of a Cuban dance-form popularised by Yradier, a composer to whom Bizet was indebted in his Spanish opera Carmen. Debussy, thirteen years Ravel’s senior, resented comparison with his compatriot, whose style of composition was, in any case, generally very different in character. The Girl with the Flaxen Hair was written as a piano piece, one of the first book of Preludes, written and published in 1910.

Jean Baptiste Senaillé belongs to an earlier generation of French composers. The son of a member of the French royal orchestra, the 24 Violons du Roi, he succeeded his father in 1713, and from 1720 until his death in 1730 remained in the royal service. His compositions consist principally of some fifty sonatas for violin and basso continuo, a number of them arranged for other solo instruments in the eighteenth century and later.

Henri Vieuxtemps, known principally as one of the great violinists of the nineteenth century, wrote a considerable amount of music for his own use, concertos, salon pieces, fantasies and studies. One of his brothers was a pianist and the other a cellist working at first at the Italian opera in London and then serving as principal cellist with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. The Cantilena, true to its name, serves the cello very well. Siegfried Barchet, a composer of the present century, takes the cello into the world of Segovia and the guitar, providing an attractive vehicle for a novel use of the instrument in his Boulevard de Garavan from Images de Menton.

Offenbach is well enough known for his sparkling Parisian operettas. His early career, however, was as a cellist, initially in a trio with his violinist brother and pianist sister, and then in the orchestra of the Paris Opéra-Comique. In addition to a number of works for cello and orchestra, he wrote solos, duos and studies for his instrument, many of them making considerable demands on the player.

The Vocalise by Rachmaninov has long served instrumentalists rather better than the singers for whom it was conceived. Written in 1912, it was revised in 1915, and seems imbued with the sweet melancholy of a world that was passing. Rachmaninov’s own life was compelled into a different course after the revolution of 1917, when he left Russia to make a career abroad for himself and those members of his family he could take with him. Gershwin’s Novelettes, written in 1925, were arranged by the Polish-born violinist Samuel Dushkin, pupil of Auer and Kreisler and a friend and collaborator with Stravinsky, for violin and piano, under the title “Short Story”. The piece takes the performer and listener to the entrance, at least, of Tin Pan Alley.

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