The following is a short excerpt from Lev Ginsburg's biography of Bernhard Romberg from his monumental History of the Violoncello (of which this is 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.

Bernhard Romberg

Dr. Lev. Ginsburg
One can get a clear idea of the artistic personality of the German cellist Bernhard Romberg from an article by his famous contemporary, the romantic writer Ernst Theodor Amadeus (E.T.A.) Hoffmann:

"When I speak of the high perfection achieved by instrumental music at the present moment, what other name can come to my mind than that of the great master, whom to my sincere joy I found here after a long absence ...Bernhard Romberg is with us again. I made sure that he is really ours now having seen posters of his concert ... He played also in many other concerts but I managed to see and hear him only in this one, where he himself was the centerpiece.


B. Romberg

"I do mean I could both hear and see him, because the general ardent desire not only to hear but also to see at a concert ... arises, no doubt, not out of idle curiosity: he hears better who sees. The mysterious affinity of light and sound becomes evident; light and sound merge into a single whole, and the soloist himself is transformed into a singing melody! This might sound strange, I agree, but, please, look and listen to our divine Bernhard, and you will appreciate what I say and will not reproach me for foolish eccentricity.

"Complete freedom of performances and absolute command of the instrument eliminate any struggle with this mechanical means of expression, and the instrument thus becomes a spontaneous, ingenuous organ of feeling, But is that not a supreme goal towards which any artist is striving? And who came closer to this than Romberg! He has complete power over the instrument or, rather, the instrument itself, with its force and grace, with its rare wealth of sound becomes part of the artist, and without any expense of mechanical force conveys all that the soul is feeling. Not the least important is that during concerts, Romberg never uses music and is performing from memory, sitting easily in front of his audience. You cannot imagine how greatly he impressed me." (Hoffmann mentions Romberg's concert in Berlin on October 23, 1814. On the program were Romberg's symphony and his cello works-the Sixth Concerto/Concerto militaire, Rondoletto and Capriccio on Swedish folk songs-all performed by the composer.)

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