The following article is an excerpt from Lev Ginsburg's History of the Violoncello (of which this may be considered a short review), and is representative of the fine work done by Dr. Ginsburg. His book begins with Romberg, and ends with modern cello music and cellists up to the mid twentieth century. The History of the Violoncello (1983, Paganiniana Publications) should be in every cellist's library. If you are looking for a copy, it is out of print, but you may possibly find a used copy at Montagnana Books.

19th Century
Cellists of the Parisian School

(In particular you will find information about Baudiot, Franchomme, Battanchon and Chevilliard.)

The French art of the cello, which had already reached a very high level in the 18th century, continued to develop very intensively in the next, when many gifted French cellists, both performers and teachers, made their appearance.

Unlike the musical life of the politically fragmented Germany which was concentrated in many towns, French musical life of the time was focused primarily in Paris. Nineteenth-century Paris surged ahead also as one of Europe's greatest musical centers. The animated Parisian concert life was highly conducive for the famous musicians from all over the world to flock to it. "We are almost wallowing in music here. . ." wrote Heinrich Heine from Paris in the 1840s.

It was the time that the romantic virtuoso trend in musical performing reached its apex. The accomplished skill of Paganini and Liszt who frequently appeared in Paris, attracted ardent adherents and disciples alongside the many imitators. By the middle of the century, struggle had already broken out between advocates of the profound and expressive in music and performance, whose aim true virtuosity should serve, and the supporters of the superficial and salon art.

Clashes between different esthetic tastes and views that were the rule in the musical life of the French capital were also reflected in the art of th~ violoncello. But progressive national traditions characterized by democratic spirit and humanist principles, by expressiveness and poetry of musical language, as well as colorful virtuosity, continued to develop in the music of its finest representatives. The cello classes of the Paris Conservatoire played a significant role in the 19th-century history of the violoncello.

When describing the 19th-century French violoncello school, one feature that must be mentioned was its exceptional pedagogical fruitfulness, which manifested itself in the uninterrupted "teacher-pupil" chain resulting in the evolution of traditions and the assertion of continuity, as well as in the abundance of the well-elaborated cello methods aids-methods and etudes-which were used extensively.

In the first decade of the century there had already appeared schools by Jean Baptist Breval, Jean Louis Duport and the Method of the Paris Conservatoire, in the compiling of which Jean Henri Levasseur and Charles Nicolas Baudiot took part. The principles of performance and methodics contained in the schools, as well as concertos and sonatas of the French cellists of the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century give an idea of the characteristic features of the art of the cello in France which had formed by the time. The outstanding vividness and profundity of playing, cultured tone, brilliant mastery and elegance of strokes connected with music of the dance.

During the century, not less than fifteen violoncello methods had been published in France, the most important besides the above being the methods by Charles Nicolas Baudiot, Pierre Alexandre Chevilliard and Hyppolite Franqois Rabaud.


The "pedigree" of almost all French cellists goes back to the school of Martin Berteau. Charles Nicolas Baudiot, in particular, studied with Jean Baptiste Janson (pupil of Berteau) and succeeded him as professor at the Paris Conservatoire (1802). For several years, Baudiot was member of the court chappl, principal cellist of the opera orchestra, and performed as a soloist. According to his contemporaries, he possessed a "pure sound, but not powerfi:d, very precise intonation and polished performance, but his bowing lacked versatility of strokes, his playing was cold and uninspired.1170

Baudiot wrote several compositions for the cello, among them two concertos, three fantasias and variations.

The Method of Baudiot was extremely popular. It was published in 1826 and developed the principles of the Paris Conservatoire Method, in whose compiling Baudiot had assisted at the beginning of his teaching career. This Method, accepted at the Paris Conservatoire, was dedicated to its principal Luigi Cherubini. It consisted of two parts: the first dealt with elementary teaching; the second-as was said in the forword- outlined "all ways leading to the complete command of the instrument."

According to Baudiot, the violoncello should be held (without the spike) between the calves. The fingers of the left hand are retained perpendicular to the fingerboard with the low elbow. The fingers of the right hand are inclined to the end of the bow and brought close to the frog, so that the little finger touches the beginning of the frog and the rest of it is thus not touched by the fingers.

Baudiot emphasized the importance of a reasoned and methodical approach to studies. He based his practical exercises on musical extracts, providing them with accompaniments. In his Method, he included fragments of compositions by Cherubini and Romberg, as well as an extract from Mozart's Don Giovanni as an exercise for accompaniment of operatic recitatives. Much attention was paid to the development of taste.

The Method contains exercises in sons fil6s, chapters dedicated to embellishments, strokes, positions, thumb, double stops, chromatics, arpeggios, extensions, harmonics (natural and artificial), and pizzicato.

Embellishments should be "prompted by intellect and taste," wrote Baudiot. When working on strokes, he paid special attention to the necessity of free movement without extra effort. Alongside smooth strokes, he introduced spiccato and staccato. Baudiot emphasized enharmonic sounds and the difference of their intonation on the cello and on the tempered piano. His fingering of scales without open strings-a continuation of Duport's principles-is of considerable interest; but he uses it only in scales with four or more sharps or flats (consistent application of this principle and systematization of "standard" fingering in scales is the development of Davydov).


August Franchomme was one of the eminent cellists of the 19th century. He was an excellent performer and talented pedagogue. Franchomme was born on April 10, 1808 in Lille. He took his elementary cello lessons with M. Mas, and continued studies at the Paris Conservatoire under Jean Henri Levasseur and after with Louis Pierre Norblin. In 1825 Franchomme had already been awarded first prize. For several years, he combined concert activity, primarily in Paris, with the orchestral performances at the Grand Opera, the Italian Theatre, the Concert Society, etc.


Franchomme often played in the Conservatoire concerts. A contemporary characterized his playing by the following words: "Enchanting tone, a great deal of grace and expression in the manner of singing and rare purity of intonation -that is what distinguishes this artist."

Some critics reproached Franchomme for not putting enough fire into his playing, but they all concurred in the highest praise for his expressive singing on the cello. Franchomme played the Stradivari which had previously belonged to Jean Louis Duport.

In Paris, Franchomme made friends with Felix Mendelssohn and more closely with Frederic Chopin, with whom he often performed and also composed a concert duct on themes from the opera Robert the Devil by Meyerbeer- (1832).

When Chopin composed his Cello Sonata in 1845-1846, he wrote on it: "To my friend Franchomme." In the cellist's own inscribed copy of this work, which is in the National Library in Paris, there is a notice: "The violoncello part of the sonata for piano and cello by Chopin is written by me according to his dictation. Franchomme."

On February 16, 1848, only a few days before the revolution, August Franchomme and Delfino Alard took part in a Chopin concert at the Pleyel Hall. The programme featured the Chopin Cello Sonata and a trio by Mozart. That was Chopin's last concert and the cello sonata-his last significant work. On September 17, 1849 Chopin wrote to Franchomme: "I love you, and this is all I can tell you now because I am dead tired and weak." Their friendship lasted until the death of the Polish musician.

The cellist repeatedly appeared in the concerts of the Russian musicians who came to Paris. On April 14, 1840 in a concert of the talented Russian violinist Nikolay Dmitriev-Svetchin, Franchomme played a Theme and Variations he himself had composed. In the concert featuring the young Anton Rubinstein on May 23, 1841 at the Pleyel Hall, he played his own Fantasia. He and Delfino Alard regularly organized quartet concerts which were a success with Paris audiences. He died in Paris on January 21, 1884.

From 1846 until the end of his life, Franchomme taught at the Paris Conservatory. Among his pupils were Charles Lebouc, Leon Jacquard, Hyppolite Rabaud, Jules Delsart, Louis Vidal, Cros Saint-Ange, George Papin, Joseph Salmon, the Hungarian violoncellist Louis Hegyesi, and many others. He composed over fifty cello works with orchestra and with piano, which are now of little value at all. Among them are a concerto, fantasias on themes from the operas: Gretry's Richard Coeur de Lion, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Rossini's Semiramida and Norma by Bellini. There are also variations and caprices on Russian, Overne, Scottish, Spanish and Tiroler songs.

Though Franchomme followed Servais' traditions in the fantasia genre and Romberg's in the genre of variations on folk songs, his own compositions were somewhat original. In his fantasias, variations and caprices he did not confine himself to the themes of Italian opera composers; he was attracted by Mozart, Beethoven (Variations on a Theme by Beethoven Op. 22, No. 2), Weber (Caprice on Themes from Preziosa by Weber) and Chopin (Caprice on Chopin's Themes). His etude No. 5 and Caprice No. 9, distinguished for their expressiveness and poetic cantilena, attest to a certain affinity with Chopin's style.

Franchomme transcribed Mozart's and Beethoven's violin sonatas for violoncello and piano, as well as Chopin's nocturnes and preludes, which testifies to the taste of the French musician, who was not satisfied with empty virtuoso compositions.

The cellist's technique-which combined Romberg's and Servais' devices, but was more natural, as it was unhindered by virtuoso extremes-can be judged by his concerto and concert duet on themes from Robert the Devil with the interesting thumb technique and the use of the fourth finger in the thumb and octave technique.

The Twelve Capriccios Op. 7 (with the accompaniment of a second violoncello ad libitum) and Etudes Op. 35 featuring different techniques (complicated double stops, chord and strokes technique) and with definite musical merits, are widely used in contemporary teaching, especially in the new capriccio genre of teaching literature.

There were two trends in the development of the instructive teaching genre of the 19th-century cello literature: the first (more characteristic of the German school) involves numerous schematic etudes and daily exercises aimed at teaching only technical skill, the second (more typical of the French and Russian schools and David Popper) arose out of the aspiration to combine purely technical and artistically expressive requirements. One can see this from the fact that the name "Etude" was replaced by the names "caprice" and "capriccio," "prelude," "concert Etude" etc., and there were introduced programmatic titles


Twenty-four etudes written in the 1850s by Felix Battanchon, which were dedicated to Daniel Franqois Aubert, director of the Paris Conservatory and accepted for teaching there are still of academic value. They are very musical and reveal an excellent comprehension of the nature of the cello technique ("self-accompaniment," extension of the thumb position, chromatics, spiccato, etc.).

As far as the musical aspect is concerned, the third part is the most interesting. Themes of the etudes correspond to their programmatic titles: "Expectation," "Anxiety," "Whim," "Storm," "Blast" and "Hunt," which on the one hand reflect the romantic tendencies, and on the other, the aspiration to overcome the schematicism of the usual Etude material.

Among several of Battanchon's other books of etudes, well worth mentioning are his Etudes-Variations in Double Stops Op. 13, Eighteen Etudes on Themes from Compositions by Jan Stiastny Op. 21 and Six Artistic Etudes Op. 30. The musical miniatures, Twenty-five Preludes Op. 10, dedicated to certain artists are also of considerable interest.


Of the French violoncellists of the middle and second half of the 19th century, Pierre Alexandre Franqois Chevilliard (1811-1877) deserves mention. He was awarded the first prize of the Norblin class of the Paris Conservatory in 1827. From 1859, after a concert and orchestral career of many years, he became a professor at the Paris Conservatory.

He won his fame particularly as a quartet performer -as one of the first popularizers of Beethoven's last quartets. Hector Berlioz and Pauline Viardot heard those works performed by the Chevilliard Quartet (with Maurin, Sabbatier and Mas) which was also extremely successful in appearances in Germany.

The Methods of Chevilliard and Rabaud (the first appeared in 1865 and the second about twenty years later) add to our picture of the French art of the violoncello in the second half of the 19th century. Rabaud was already writing about some cellists using the spike, but suggested that students should not resort to it without first mastering the "classical holding."

Both Rabaud and Chevilliard paid special attention to the use of scales in teaching, particularly in descending order. Their way of holding the bow near the frog (not at a distance as did Breval) is closer to the contemporary. Rabaud advised pupils to develop the detache -"broad" (detache proper) and "light" (spiccato), as well as martele and staccato. Both schools gave special emphasis to the development of versatile and flexible bowing technique which helped the cellist acquire the elegance and grace of strokes that was so typical of the French violoncello school.

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