Pedagogical Reference of David Popper's

Hohe Schule des Violoncellspiels-Vierzig Etuden, Op.73

by Dr. I-Bei Lin

David Popper's Hohe Schule des Violoncellspiels, Op. 73, a collection of forty etudes for violoncello, has become a universal pedagogical tool for young and old cellists alike. No amateur or professional cellist could possibly have gotten by without learning at least one or two etudes by Popper, yet there exists few guides or reference books to introduce the cellist to these etudes. This article serves as a pedagogical reference for teachers and students.

Since most pupils have difficulty analyzing the significant techniques used in each etude, it is crucial for instructors to select the appropriate etude for each student. If a particular technique or musical element is to be learned, the tables below, divided into different categories, are available as a guideline or reference. The basic structural analysis of each etude contains: 1) right-hand techniques (TABLE 1), 2) left-hand techniques (TABLE 2), 3) keys (TABLE 3), 4) tempo (TABLE 4), 5) rhythm (TABLE 5), and 6) etude order from easiest to hardest (TABLE 6).

1. Right-Hand Techniques

TABLE 1

List of the Significant Right-Hand Techniques Used in Popper's Etudes, Op. 73
Bowings Etudes Total
Legato 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29, 31, 33, 34, 35, 39 23
Detache 5, 6, 18, 37, 25 5
Spiccato 1, 195
Sautille 27, 382
Staccato14, 32 2
Mixed bowings 11, 15, 16, 30, 36, 406


2. Left-Hand Techniques

TABLE 2

List of the Significant Left-Hand Techniques Used
in Popper's Forty Etudes, Op. 73
Left-hand technique Etude Total
Shifting 1-40 40
Thumb Positions All except 3, 11, and 25 37
Octaves 13, 38, 20,39 4
Sixths 17, 24, 2, 34 4
Thirds 9, 29, 34 3
Mordents 37 1
Harmonics 40 1
Mixed Double stops 10, 12, 15, 27, 31 5


3. Keys

TABLE 3

List of Keys in Popper's Forty Etudes, Op.73
Key C Db D Eb E F F# Gb G Ab A Bb B Total
Etude 1
8
10*
12
16
17*
27
31
32*
36
35
39
14
18
24
33
38
40
9
13
19
37 6
11
34
4
29*
30 2
15
20*
22
5
21*
26
28
7
3*
25
23*
Major 7 2 6 3 1 3 2 1 4 0 5 2 1 32
Minor 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 8

* minor key

Most of the etudes were written in the keys that correspond to the open strings of the cello- ADGC; ten etudes were written in the keys of C Major and c minor, six etudes were written in the key of D major, six etudes were written in the keys of A Major and a minor, and five etudes were written in the keys of G Major and g minor. By using keys that correspond to the open strings, the sound is more open and resonant. Furthermore, most of the standard cello repertoire was written in the keys of the open strings. These pieces include: J.S. Bach's Six Solo Cello Suites-G Major, No.1; d minor, No.2; C Major, No.3; c minor, No.5, and D major, No.6; Haydn's Cello Concerti VIIb: 1 and 2 in C and D major, Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations in A Major, Schumann Cello Concerto in a minor, Saint-SaŽns Cello Concerto in a minor, and so forth.

Of all the twenty-four major and minor keys, the key of Ab is the only key that is not used in these etudes. A number of etudes were written with four, five, and six flats or sharps because many cellists are unfamiliar with these keys.

4. Tempo

TABLE 4

List of Tempi in Popper's Forty Etudes, Op.73
Tempo Etude Total
Presto 38 1
Vivace 7, 40*** 2
Allegro Vivace 36 1
Allegro 1, 5, 6, 12, 13, 16, 18, 19, 21, 24, 25, 27, 15***, 10*, 20* 15
Allegretto 30 1
Moderato 11, 14, 23, 29, 17** 5
Andantino 28 1
Andante 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 22, 26, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 37, 39 14

* Nos. 10 and 20 are originally marked as Appassionato
** No. 17 is originally marked as Con brio
*** Nos. 15 and 40 are originally marked as Scherzando

Tempo is one of the most important components in music making. Different tempi create different moods and characters in music. Slow-tempo practice is essential in the early stages of learning a piece. However, a fast tempo is essential and can be found in many virtuosic passages. According to the table above, Popper shows a preference for the following tempo markings: Allegro (15 etudes), Andante (14 etudes), and Moderato (5 etudes). The main reason for practicing etudes in general is to develop the facility to perform real compositions. Popper's forty etudes meet this need. The main purpose of his etudes is not only to facilitate fast and clean playing, but also to learn how to play as beautifully and melodically as possible.

5. Rhythm

TABLE 5

List of Rhythmic Figures in Popper's Forty Etudes, Op. 73
Rhythmic figures Etude Total
Sixteenth notes 2, 6, 8, 12, 27, 32, 33, 35, 37, 38 10
Triplets 1, 4, 7, 11, 15, 16, 19, 21, 23, 29, 31 11
Sextuplets 18, 24, 26, 28, 39 5
Unique rhythm 5 1
-- 25 1
-- 34 1
-- 40 1
Mixed rhythm
(simple meter)
3, 10, 14, 17, 20, 22 6
Mixed rhythm
(compound meter)
9, 13, 36, 39 4


6. Etude Order From Easiest to Hardest

TABLE 6-1

Popper's High School of Cello Playing, Op.73 ĖEtude Order from Easiest to Hardest, by Martha Gerschefski,
1983 (Cello Professor at the Georgia State University)
First Order 36, 3, 27, 25, 6, 11, 2, 5, 7, 17, 15
Second Order 34, 40, 1, 10, 32, 30, 16, 19, 22, 35, 8, 14, 18, 20, 26, 31, 23, 21, 24, 37, 38, 39
Most Difficult Order 4, 9, 12, 13, 28, 29, 33

TABLE 6-2

Popper's High School of Cello Playing, Op.73 ĖEtude Order from Easiest
to Hardest by Aldo Pais, Milano: Edizioni Curci, 1973
Etude Order 1, 2, 3, 34, 5, 6, 16, 17, 25, 11, 14, 36, 9, 21, 19, 10, 15, 35, 8,
31, 27, 22, 32, 38, 13, 30, 18, 28, 29, 4, 26, 23, 33, 7, 20, 12, 37, 24, 39, 40

The set of these forty etudes was first published in four different volumes. Because these studies are not arranged in order of difficulty, teachers have to carefully select the appropriate etude for the student. The tables 6-1 and 6-2 provide suggestions for two technical orderings by the degree of difficulty for these etudes. The first set, from Martha Gerschefski, Cello Professor at Georgia State University, is sequenced by use of thumb position. Although the second progressive ordering, by Aldo Pais, is different, it was also organized by the application of thumb position. Because each etude targets specific techniques, the etudes can be chosen with the needs of the student in mind.

In conclusion, these forty etudes are written in varying degrees of difficulty, and encompass a variety of important cello techniques, such as thumb positions, shifting, double stops, spiccato, legato, detache, sautille, and staccato. Because these studies are highly advanced and contain most crucial cello techniques needed to play any cello repertoire, they have become the technical bible for cellists today. After learning all forty studies, one should be able to perform any cello repertoire with ease.

List of Editions of Hohe Schule des Violoncellspiels, Op.73 by David Popper

  1. London: Novello, 1902 1905
  2. Leipzig: F. Hofmeister, 1901 1905
  3. New York: E.F. Kalmus, 1977
  4. New York: International Music Co., 1945 1982 1997
  5. New York: Belwin Mills, 1980
  6. New York: G. Schrimer, 1980
  7. Milano,(Edited by Aldo Pais): Edizioni Curci, 1973

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