Elizabeth Cowling, in her book The Cello, likened Cassadó to the great violinist-composer Fritz Kreisler, and the comparison is an apt one. Cowling was referring to Cassadó's claim that he had merely transcribed the Toccata which bears the name of Girolamo Frescobaldi, when in fact it appears that Cassadó wrote the piece himself. Kreisler had done this sort of thing several times, attributing his own works to Baroque and Classical musicians, usually ones whose names were known to Kreisler's audiences, but whose styles and output were not as well known as those of composers like J.S. Bach or Mozart.
Kreisler included these pseudonymous works on many of his concerts, and no one publicly questioned their authenticity until 1935, when Olin Downes, chief music critic for the New York Times, was preparing to give a lecture recital with Yehudi Menuhin, the program of which was to include what was then known as Kreisler's transcription of the Praeludium and Allegro by Gaetano Pugnani, an eighteenth-century violinist and composer of some note.
Downes began researching Pugnani for his lecture notes, and of course was unable to locate the original manuscript for the piece. He then contacted Carl Fischer, Kreisler's American publisher, who informed him that there was no manuscript and that Pugnani had had nothing to do with the piece. Just a few months earlier, Kreisler had told Carl Fischer that the Pugnani and several other pieces which he had claimed to have merely transcribed were in fact his own work, and had asked that they be listed in Fischer's catalog as such. 1
Kreisler's admission was big news; the New York Times put the story on the front page. Many people were outraged by the "hoax," while others claimed to have known all along that these pieces were forgeries. Kreisler was so beloved, however, that the controversy eventually died down and all was forgiven.
Cassadó too wrote several works which he claimed were transcriptions; the Toccata is the only one that appears regularly on concert programs today. The myth of its origin was debunked in 1978 by Walter Schenkman, a professor of piano at the University of Northern Colorado. In an article for American String Teacher, Schenkman examined the piece alongside several of Frescobaldi's organ Toccatas and found that the structure and tonality of this piece bore no resemblance to those used by Frescobaldi. Frescobaldi generally wrote modal works of many sections which have little or no connection between them. In fact, Frescobaldi himself stated that these pieces didn't even need to be played in their entirety; after a few sections, the performer could simply stop. Cassadó's Toccata is tonal (in b minor and D major), is built primarily on one theme, and is very much through-composed. Schenkman further points out that its slow introduction-Allegro form is much more like Handel than Frescobaldi. 2
One important (and amusing) story from Schenkman's article concerns an arrangement of the Toccata for orchestra by conductor Hans Kindler. Kindler completed his version in 1942, and it was performed quite frequently. When questioned about the manuscript, Kindler admitted that he had never seen it, and that he had used Cassadó's version as his source material. In an article in Notes in September 1955, Charles L. Cudworth, a music librarian, noted that this caused Kindler considerable embarrassment. Cudworth also questioned very seriously the authenticity of the Toccata, asserting that it was "almost certainly composed" by Cassadó. 3
In December of that same year, the Boston Symphony programmed Kindler's arrangement of the Toccata, and program note writer John Burk, perhaps following Cudworth's lead, wrote to Cassadó, asking where he had found the original Frescobaldi manuscript. Burk included the following in his notes:
Burk accepted Cassadó's hilariously evasive explanation, while Schenkman was not convinced. Schenkman concluded that Cassadó wrote the Toccata and assumed he would never be asked to discuss its authenticity, probably as Kreisler had at first. The difference between the two, of course, is that when confronted, Kreisler freely admitted his forgery, and Cassadó did not. Perhaps Cassadó, having had such an unpleasant experience with bad publicity in 1949, did not wish to undergo anything similar. He also did not have the same popularity as Kreisler, and couldn't be sure of the same forgiveness.
In the 1920s, arrangements of Baroque and Classical pieces still reflected a nineteenth-century Romantic approach, and questions of authenticity and performance practice were rarely discussed. In fact, in his article on the Kreisler hoax, Olin Downes suggested that musicology was partly to blame:
Today, orchestrations such as Kindler's "Frescobaldi" or Stokowski's gloriously inauthentic Bach arrangements are rarely performed, and, sadly, seem out of place in the context of today's more historically informed performances.
The Toccata was not the only piece Cassadó forged in this manner. In 1925, Universal Edition published a set of pieces entitled Collection de Six Morceaux Classiques. Besides the Toccata, the set contained works attributed to Schubert, Boccherini, Couperin, Gottlieb Muffat, and Martin Berteau. Berteau was a cellist, and the arrangement in question is simply Cassadó's addition of a piano harmonization to one of his solo cello etudes. The Muffat is authentic, originally written for harpsichord. The Schubert Allegretto grazioso and the Boccherini Minuetto most likely are forgeries; though both works are very much in the styles of their supposed composers, neither one appears in the composer's thematic catalogue. The Schubert Allegretto in particular is an excellent imitation; it was played a great deal in Cassadó's time as an encore and is still occasionally heard. The Couperin Pastoral is also probably by Cassadó, as it does not appear in the composer's thematic catalogue, and seems overly "cellistic."
The angry reaction of Schenkman and others to Kreisler's and Cassadó's deceptions is striking. Olin Downes took a more measured perspective on the subject, calling his article "Kreisler's Delectable Musical Hoax," with the subtitle: "Should the man who has kissed the wrong girl in the dark condemn the practice of kissing?" He pointed out that Kreisler had had a good reason for not putting his own name on these pieces:
Downes went on to point out that no great crime had been committed. "Let us admit that Mr. Kreisler has hoaxed us rather handsomely. Has not the principal harm, if any, been done to the feelings of the hoaxed?" 7 This attitude seems an appropriate one to have about Cassadó's inauthentic transcriptions as well; no damage has been done by Cassadó's forgery, and indeed some good has come from it, namely, the addition of some excellent pieces to the cello repertoire that might otherwise have been ignored.
Cassadó also made numerous legitimate transcriptions for cello and piano; the manuscript list at the end of this paper indicates close to 70. Most of these are of well-known works by composers like Bach, Chopin and Debussy, and there is therefore no question of their authenticity. The most popular transcription Cassadó made was of the Intermezzo from the opera Goyescas, by Enrique Granados, still a popular encore. The range of musical styles represented in the list of transcriptions is astounding; here is a brief representation of the diversity of Cassadó's arrangements: Bach chorales, Mozart piano sonatas, the Blue Danube waltz, a Minuet by Ignaz Paderewski, the Andante from Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony, and Siboney, by the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona. Cassadó also wrote a suite for cello and piano based on themes from Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.
Cassadó's transcriptions were not only for cello and piano, however. He also arranged various pieces for cello and orchestra, two of which have already been mentioned (the Arpeggione arrangement and the Weber Clarinet Concerto), but which also include a concerto version of the Bach G minor sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord, as well as a 35-minute concerto for cello and full orchestra based on piano music by Tchaikovsky. He also arranged music for other combinations of instruments as well, including an arrangement for guitar and orchestra of a Boccherini cello concerto, and a setting of the famous Bach-Gounod Ave Maria for solo violin, four cellos, organ and harp.
The variety of styles upon which Cassadó drew for his arrangements is but one indication of his versatility; his compositional range was similarly wide. Though Cassadó did write a great deal of music for cello (with and without piano), he also composed three string quartets, a piano trio, a violin sonata and several solo piano pieces. He also wrote a piano concerto and several works for orchestra, including the previously mentioned Rapsodia Catalana, which enjoyed a good deal of success.
It is Cassadó's music for cello and piano, however, that is remembered and played today. Elaine Boda has written excellent analyses of these works in her dissertation; there is no need to duplicate her work here. Nevertheless, a few words about one of the lesser-known pieces are appropriate. The Lamento de Boabdil is almost completely unknown today; yet it is one of Cassadó's finest compositions. The harmonic language reflects Cassadó's study with Ravel, and goes beyond the already adventurous writing of pieces like the Suite for Solo Cello and Requiebros, the two pieces by Cassadó most commonly heard today. The Lamento is a short piece of the highest caliber; it deserves to be heard much more frequently.
Cassadó's versatility did not end with his playing, composing and arranging, however. He was also an inventor, constantly tinkering with his instrument and bow to find ways to produce more sound, as well as play more comfortably. The cover of Monica Pagès' biography of Cassadó shows two of these inventions. Cassadó's bow has a piece of cork attached to the side of the frog where the fingers fall, so that his hand is more open and his fingers less curved. Also visible is his most notorious invention, a set of four springs which took the place of the cello's tailpiece. With these springs, Cassadó was able to control the tension of each individual string. The resulting sound was much larger than usual and proved especially useful in projecting over an orchestra, but it also had its drawbacks; the tone was somewhat brittle and metallic. Cassadó also invented a device which eliminated the need for switching bridges on the cello because of changes in humidity; he installed a screw in the foot of the instrument's neck, with which he could raise and lower the fingerboard as necessary.
Cassadó's curiosity and inventiveness, as is evident, were far-ranging and enabled him to make many significant contributions to the cello and its literature. On at least one occasion, however, Cassadó's tinkering got him into trouble. In the summer of 1949, Joaquin Rodrigo was close to completing his Concierto Galante, which Cassadó had commissioned. Cassadó worked closely with Rodrigo for several days at the composer's home, helping to copy out the score. The premiere of the piece was given by Cassadó in Madrid that fall. In January of 1951, Cassadó performed the piece again, this time in Naples, with Rodrigo and his wife in attendance. Sra. Rodrigo described the performance:
This story clearly illustrates, among other things, Cassadó's enormous confidence in his own abilities and judgment. In this context, his willingness to perpetuate the myth of the Frescobaldi Toccata even when questioned directly about it makes sense. It is hard to imagine either of these episodes occurring today, and that actually helps explain, at least in part, how Cassadó pulled things like this off.
Cassadó was the product of an age much less strict when it came to things like manuscripts, musicology and textual fidelity. Though his "editing" of the Rodrigo clearly overstepped acceptable boundaries, it is important to remember that forgeries like the Frescobaldi Toccata were commonplace in Cassadó's time. Performers had much more leeway in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and this had both good and bad results. On the one hand, there were incidents like that involving the Rodrigo Concerto. On the other, without such freedom, there would not be works like Rachmaninoff's renderings of Kreisler's Liebesleid and Liebesfreud, which cannot be considered arrangements in any conventional sense, but which are remarkable precisely because they go beyond the dimensions of the original works themselves. Though the work of people like Cudworth and Schenkman is necessary and important, the pieces they expose as forgeries should not be discarded. Cassadó and others like him provided the repertoire with some wonderful pieces of music; that these works have spurious origins should not mean that they get put aside. These pieces also have great musicological value, as they give a good idea of Baroque and Classical performance practice in the early 20th century.
One of the appendices to this paper contains recital programs which Cassadó gave at the Accademia Musica Chigiana in Siena, where he taught for many years. These programs further highlight the difference between Cassadó's time and our own. Programs like these would be unthinkable today, and that is not all to the good. Lighter works like Cassadó's and Kreisler's pieces are now played much less frequently, and recital programs are too often unrelentingly serious. The mixture of sonatas and short pieces which used to be the norm allowed all the works on a program to be considered on their own merits, and the lighter works provided needed contrast from the bigger, more substantial ones. The short pieces also showed a side of the performer less often displayed today, a sense of humor. Cassadó's recitals seem to have been representations of Cassadó himself, rather than simply a group of masterpieces which fit together to form a program, as is often the case today. Perhaps as performers learn more about Cassadó and his music, they will follow his example by presenting more varied and personalized concert programs.
© Copyright by Nathaniel J. Chaitkin, 2001.
1. Olin Downes, Olin Downes on Music, ed. Irene Downes (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955; reprint, New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), 202.
2. Walter Schenkman, “Cassadó's Frescobaldi: A Case of Mistaken Identity or Outright Hoax,” American String Teacher 28, no. 2 (Spring 1978): 26-27.
3. Charles L. Cudworth, "Ye Olde Spuriosity Shoppe, or, Put it in the Anhang," Notes 12 (September 1955): 536.
4. Schenkman, 26.
5. Downes, 203-204.
6. Ibid., 203.
7. Ibid., 204.
8. Victoria Kamhi de Rodrigo, Hand in Hand with Joaquin Rodrigo: My Life at the Maestro's Side, trans. Ellen Wilkerson (Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press Series: Discoveries, 1992), 143-144.
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