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.
(In particular you will find information about Antonin Kraft, Josef Lincke, Josef Merk, Julius Klengel and Hugo Becker.)
The development of the art of the violoncello in Vienna in the first half of the last century was encouraged by the general ferment in the musical life of the Austrian capital in the post-Napoleonic period. After the war and ruin, it was natural that the interest of the Viennese turned towards music and the theater. Music was played not only in aristocratic salons, but in wide burgher circles as well. Despite the burden of the Metternich reaction, music continued to develop in Austria; it is sufficient to remember the late works of genius of Beethoven and Schubert. At the same time, because of its quests for all kinds of entertainment, Vienna was favorable for the development of the virtuoso tendency in the instrumental performing art. This paved the way for the appearances in the city of virtuosos such as Romberg, Bohrer, and especially Paganini. The concert and chamber compositions by the Viennese classical composers as well as by Schubert helped subdue the superficial drawing-room virtuosity in the art of the best Viennese performers.
One can talk of the Viennese violoncello school as an organic trend only symbolically since the Austrian capital was a haven for representatives of different national schools (such as the Czech) and the "teacher-pupil" links were not as distinct and consistent as with the Dresden school.
Nevertheless, the Viennese school occupies a prominent place in the history of the violoncello because of the works of the Viennese composers, the classical and later the romantic, as well as the flowering of the quartet connected with this city.
One cannot help recalling a whole number of Czech cellists in Vienna, among them the eminent performer and composer Antonin Kraft (1749-1820) who had artistic links with and was a friend of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. In 1778-1790, under Haydn's guidance, he played in the Esterhdzy chapel. Haydn, who tutored Kraft in composition, wrote the D Major39Cello Concerto f6r him. It was also for him that Beethoven composed the violoncello part of his Triple Concerto.
In Vienna, Antonin Kraft played in the chapels of Grassalkowitz and Lobkowitz, and for a number of years (1792-1808) was the cellist in the celebrated Schuppanzig Quartet, which was patronized by Prince Karl Lichnowsky. The merit of the Schuppanzig Quartet was that it organized the first series of public quartet evenings in Vienna in 1804-1805. The Quartet, which won wide acclaim for its performances of works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, encouraged their popularization in the Austrian capital and the creation of certain traditions in classical quartet music. Kraft played in the first performances of many of Beethoven's compositions. In the last year of his life, he taught the violoncello at the conservatoire of the Viennese Society of the Friends of Music.
The concert, chamber, orchestral and teaching career of Mikulas Kraft (1778-1853), son and pupil of Antonin Kraft, was also connected with Vienna. Kraft completed his cello studies with Duport in Paris and was later acclaimed far and wide as a chamber musician of the Lobkowitz chapel, as principal violoncellist of the Viennese Opera, and as a soloist as well.
The style of Antonin and Mikulas Kraft, both as performers and composers, undoubtedly reflected the influence of the Viennese classical school. They also introduced the Czech traditions into the development of the art of the cello in the Austrian capital. The performing styles of both Krafts featured beautiful and singing tone, expressive phrasing and impeccable technique.
Other Czech cellists also played in numerous Viennese chapels and theater orchestras in the last century.
Among the Austrian cellists of the last century, two prominent figures were Josef Linke and Josef Merk.
Before coming to Vienna in 1808, Josef Linke (1783-1837) studied in Breslau (now Wroclaw) with the violoncellist of the local opera house, Lose, whom he later succeeded in the same orchestra. Carl Maria von Weber headed the theater at the time.
Linke was invited to Vienna by Ignaz Schuppanzig to replace Antonin Kraft in his Quartet, and remained there until 1816. This distinguished Quartet (then patronized by Count Razumovsky), whi ch gave the first concert performances' of many of Beethoven's works, included Johann Sina (later Karl Holz) and Franz Weiss besides Schuppanzig and Linke. After two years in Countess Erdody's chapel, Linke became a soloist in the "An der Wien" theater orchestra, and from 1824, principal cellist in the court chapel orchestra. When in 1821, after a five-year interval the Viennese quartet concerts were renewed in the Prater park, Linke played in them in ensemble with Josef Bohm, Karl Holz and Franz Weiss.
Beethoven and other distinguished representatives of Vienna's musical world greatly appreciated Linke as well as Kraft for their melodious playing. In 1815, Beethoven wrote for Linke the two Violoncello Sonatas Op. 102. In December 1808, Linke, Beethoven and Schuppanzig gave the first performance of Beethoven's two Trios Op. 70 at the home of Maria Erd6dy. The cellist played in the first performance of Schubert's trios in B flat Major with Karl Maria Bocklet and Ignac Schuppanzig, and the E flat Major with the same pianist and Josef Bohm. Linke often appeared in solo recitals in the Viennese "academies" as well as in the then popular "Augarten" concerts. For the cello he composed a concerto, variations, polonaises, a Capriccio on themes by Rossini and other pieces.
|Of perhaps even greater significance for the development of the art of the cello in Vienna was Josef Merk (1795-1852). Having begun as a violinist, he became a true violoncellist after studying under the guidance of Philipp Schindlocker, the principal cellist of the orchestra of the Viennese court opera house.|
After two years in the Quartet of a Hungarian aristocrat and tours of Hungary, Merk was appointed principal violoncellist of the Viennese court opera, and three years later, to the court chapel, where he played at the same desk as Linke. In 1834 he and the famous Viennese violinist Josef Mayseder was listed as chamber virtuosi. Merk appeared in solo recitals not only in Vienna, but also in other countries.
Comparing Linke and Merk, Eduard Hanslick wrote that whereas the former "was an accomplished artist in quartet playing, his younger colleague Merk was a brilliant soloist. They were related to each other like Schuppanzig and Mayseder Although in style he much resembled Mayseder (expressive singing tone, elegance and grace), Merk managed to overcome that certain drawing-room sentimentality characteristic of Mayseder.
In 1836 a reviewer wrote that the Austrian violoncellist "would undoubtedly evoke admiration among those who give preference to singing instead of to difficulties alien to the nature of the instrument. Let all the cellists imitate his tone, taste, performance and abandon useless torments in conquering difficulties that never touch anybody's soul."
Merk's performing style in the 1830s featured characteristics stemming from his reaction to the then flourishing virtuoso and drawingroom style, facile repertoire and striving for superficial effects.
Josef Merk made friends with Franz Schubert and Frederick Chopin and established artistic links with them. Schubert wrote a vocal (male) quartet Geist der Liebe (1822) especially for a Merk concert. And after meeting him in Vienna, Chopin dedicated his Polonaise for the piano and cello (1829) to him. Chopin gladly performed with Merk, and in his letters called him one of the best of Vienna's musicians.
When in 1823 the conservatoire was organized in Vienna, Josef Merk was invited to head the violoncello class. As far as his methods are concerned, they can be judged by his Twenty etudes Op. II, dedicated to Schubert, and Six ttudes Op. 20. The combination of teaching requirements and the melodious music material enables them to be used as aids in teaching today.
Among Merk's pupils were the famous violoncellists of later years such as Karl Leopold Bohm and Anton Trag (the latter subsequently professor at the Prague conservatoire), the Dutch violoncellist Jacque Franco-Mendes and Franz Knecht, who won acclaim in St. Petersburg.
Merk's concerto, concertino, Variations on a theme of Schubert and other cello pieces did not become very popular.
His significance lies principally in his performing and teaching which promoted the progress of the Viennese violoncello school .
GERMAN VIOLONCELLISTS OF THE END OF THE 19TH AND BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY
At the end of the past century and the beginning of the present one, the German violoncello school could boast of many artists-soloists, chamber and orchestra musicians and teachers-and was characterized by two trends which somewhat resembled each other and revolved around the eminent German musicians Julius Klengel and Hugo Becker.
Both in performing and teaching in the first decades of this century, Klengel and Becker form two summits of the German art of the violoncello. They were linked by their school's certain common features (both were representatives of the Dresden school and thus "grandchildren" of Grutzmacher), such as similar artistic tastes, the austerity of interpretation prompted by rejection of the virtuoso romantic line, an "academic" style of playing, and a heightened interest in teaching and compiling teaching aids and editions. But unlike Klengel, Becker was interested in the scientifically objective motivations of the process of violoncello playing, with emphasis on the latest achievements of anatomy and physiology. Though his general approach was quite rational, Becker's playing was more emotional, probably because of his ties with the French and Belgian schools.
|Julius Klengel was born on September 24, 1859 in Leipzig. He received his basic musical education from his father, and then for some years studied with Emil Hegar, principal cellist in the Gewandhaus, orchestra and the pupil of Grutzmacher and Davydov. In the years that followed, Klengel made a thorough study of Davydov's works, and more than once asked the Russian cellist for advice during his tours of Germany and when in St. Petersburg. "Only since I visited St. Petersburg," he wrote, "did I realize what playing on the cello really is." He dedicated his First Violoncello Concerto to Davydov.||
At the age of fifteen, Klengel had already joined the Gewandhaus orchestra, and shortly afterwards began his solo concert career, first in Germany and from 1878 on, in other countries including Russia.
Klengel played in the Gewandhaus orchestra until 1924 (from 1881 on as principal cellist) which, after Mendelssohn, was led by Karl Reinecke, Arthur Nikisch and Wilhelm Furtwengler. Klengel also played solo with this orchestra. In 1876, he performed the First concerto by Davydov, and in November of 1906, D'Albert's concerto with Arthur Nikisch conducting. He last appeared in the Gewandhaus concert on October 9, 1924 in a performance of his Double Concerto for Violin and Violoncello which he composed specially for that farewell performance; Furtwengler was at the podium. In the same years and subsequently, until 1930, Klengel played in the Gewandhaus Quartet .
Klengel was professor at the Leipzig conservatoire (1881-1933). Among his many pupils were the outstanding Emanuel Feuermann, Guillermina Suggia, Paul Griimmer, Christian Schlemuller, Joachim Stutschewsky, Willy Lamping, Rudolf Metzmacher and Ludwig Hoelscher, and for some time, at the beginning of the 1920s, Gregor Piatigorsky studied with him.
Klengel made many appearances in Russia, his first in 1882. In December of that year in St. Petersburg he performed his concerto with orchestra conducted by Anton Rubinstein. Critics were not at all enthusiastic about the composition, but noted the cellist's good technique. In January 1887, he gave the St. Petersburg premiere of the Haydn D Major Concerto with Rubinstein conducting. Vassilij Bessel called the playing wonderful, the technique and musicality impeccable, but also pointed out a certain stiffness of performance and insufficiently powerful tone . Some parts from the Bach Solo Suite were played for an encore, which was quite rare at the time.
In Russia, Klengel also played in chamber concerts, such as with the Quartet of the St. Petersburg section of the Russian Music Society (1883), headed by Leopold Auer. In 1889, he was invited to Russia as a member of the famous Brodsky Quartet of Leipzig (with Adolf Brodsky, Hugo Becker, Ottokar Novacek and Julius Klengel). The pianists Alexander Siloti, Paul Pabst, Vassilij Safonov and Sergej Tanjeev participated in the four concerts of the Quartet, which was given excellent reviews in the Russian press. The program of the series featured works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Grieg, Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky. The Tchaikovsky Trio was played by Tanjeev, Brodsky and Klengel. In the final appearance, Klengel performed Beethoven's C Major Sonata with Safonov. A critic wrote about the artist's dazzling success with the Moscow audience, which demanded the first movement of the Sonata as an encore.
When in 1911 Moscow's first violoncello competition was held in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Russian Music Society,-Julius Klengel was invited to sit on the adjudicating panel.
Here is what a contemporary wrote about Klengel: "As a performer Klengel ranked very high on the musical as well as on the purely technical side ... He was a fine and scholarly musician, with an admirable taste and sense of style, and nowhere was this more conspicuous than when he took part in chamber music or interpreted such music as the Beethoven sonatas or the Bach solo suites. His least strong point was quality of tone, which, though clear and effective, was a little lacking in beauty."
An important fact in the evolution of Mengel's artistic views was definitely his close contacts with musicians such as Joachim, Brahms, Rubinstein and Reger. Reger dedicated to Klengel one of his solo suites for violoncello Op. 131, No. I and a sonata for cello and piano Op. 116. Reger also frequently performed with the cellist.
Klengel composed four concertos for violoncello and orchestra, a sonata for violoncello and piano, two concertos for two violoncellos, two concertos for violin and violoncello, three cello concertinos and a Konzertsffick, pieces for four violoncellos and other music. Written by a professional cellist who was influenced to some extent by Schumann and Reger, they were not especially original and quickly dropped out of the concert repertoire, with the exception of some virtuoso pieces. Mengel's concertos (the second is perhaps the best) and concertinos still have some teaching value.
The octave technique, double-stopping, arpeggio and chords in the first movement of the Second Concerto are of definite interest. Gracious spiccato, long staccato and artificial harmonics are employed in the Scherzo.
Today, particularly in competition programs, one can come across capriccios Op. 3 and 27, Scherzo Op. 6 for Violoncello and Piano, and the Caprice in chaconne form Op. 43 for Solo Cello, composed on a freely used theme from the introduction to the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Schumann Op. 121. Here is an extract from Scherzo Op. 6:
Contemporary performers have been drawn to Klengel's Double Violoncello Concerto, and the Hymn for twelve violoncellos dedicated to the memory of Arthur Nikisch. Klengel fbllowed the model of Davydov's Hymn for ten cellos, two double-basses and timpani written half a century earlier.
He also wrote several teaching compositions which still retain some of their value. Among them are: Technical Exercises in all Keys (1909) -methodically arranged exercises for the development of finger and bowing technique -and Daily Exercises (1911).
One of Klengel's major assets for his time were his editions of J.S. Bach's cello suites and gamba sonatas, concertos by Haydn, Romberg, Schumann, Davydov, Folkmann, with masterly cadenzas added, and sonatas by Brahms, indicating his good artistic taste. Julius Klengel died in Leipzig on October 27, 1933.
|Hugo Becker was born in Strasbourg on February 13, 1864. His father was the famous German violinist Jean Becker, who headed the Florentine Quartet for many years. When he was very young, Hugo began to study the piano, and soon the violin with his father. At the age of nine he started taking violoncello lessons, initially with Kanut Kiindinger and then with the Florentine Quartet cellist Louis Hegyesi. For several months Becker was tutored by Grutzmacher.|
When he was a young lad, Becker played in the Mannheim theater orchestra, and at the age of sixteen made his debut as a soloist. When in 1880, the Florentine Quartet dissolved, Jean Becker formed a family quartet with Hugo, his sister Jeanne (piano) and brother Hans (viola).
When appearing in London in 1882, Becker took lessons from the Italian violoncellist Alfredo Piatti, and after that from the Belgian violoncellist Jules De Swert with whom he studied his concertos. In his attempt to master the best violoncello schools of his time, Becker did not allow himself to bypass the achievements of the Russian school, headed by Davydov whom he so greatly appreciated, heard play on several occasions, and whose works he himself played and used for studies with his pupils. Later, Hans Milow would call Becker "the true follower of the glorious maestro of the violoncello Davydov."
After his father died in 1884, Becker became principal cellist in the opera orchestra in Frankfurt on the Main where he remained for two years. It was there that he formed a trio with the pianist Daniel Quast and violinist Willy Hess. For a long time, until 1906, he played in a quartet with Hugo Heermann (the Frankfurt Quartet) and was professor of cello and chamber music classes at the Frankfurt conservatoire.
At the same time, Becker made many appearances in different European countries, including Russia (1891, 1897, 1902), and in the winter of 1900/01 he made a tour of the United States. From 1891, he played in the London concerts every year, first alternating with Alfredo Piatti, and after 1901, replacing him altogether. In London Becker played in a trio with Feruccio Busoni and Eugene Ysaye. He gave regular performances in Berlin and Hamburg on Hans von Bdlow's invitation. Becker was a close friend of and had artistic links with many outstanding musicians, among them Brahms, Schumann, Joachim, Reger and Strauss.
While his solo concerts waned as he grew older, Becker continued to play in chamber concerts-in a trio with Ernst Dohnanyi and Henri Marteau, with Arthur Schnabel (later with Carl Friedberg) and Carl Flesch. The musician's versatile talent, his culture and refined artistic taste contributed to his successful appearances both as a soloist and chamber cellist.
At the beginning of our century, Becker was also an acclaimed teacher. From 1902 he taught at the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm, and in 1909, after the death of Robert Haussmann, became professor at the Higher Music School in Berlin. Among his pupils were Enriko Mainardi, Johannes Hegar, Paul Grummer and Rudolf Metzmacher. After ending their formal studies, many outstanding cellists from different lands came to Becker seeking his advice and instruction to perfect their skill, among them Maurice Eisenberg, Raya Garbousova, Ludwig Hoelscher, etc.
|As his performing activity lessened, Becker devoted more and more time to teaching, comprehension and generalization of his rich experience as a concert musician and pedagogue. He expounded his views in the book Technique and Esthetics of Violoncello Playing, which was written in collaboration with the physiologist Dr. Dago Rynar.|
Becker also composed music. He wrote a Concerto (1896) and several pieces which did not make any mark in the concert repertoire, although his Mixed Finger ~owing Exercises, alongside the new scalelike kudes and Six Special Etudes still retain some teaching value.
His edition of the Bach cello suites published in 1911 is of special interest. It is close to Haussmann's edition, and its outstanding features are certain timbre moments, logical phrase strokes, and some fingering solutions. In the foreword to the Bach suites, Becker emphasized the necessity of subjugating technical resources to the artistic aim. He also wrote several transcriptions for the violoncello of Schubert and Schumann pieces, and new editions of the Kummer and Lee schools.
Hanslick drew attention to the musicality, delicate taste and impressive virtuosity of the cellist's playing. Becker's repertoire featured concertos by Haydn, Schumann, Saint-Saens, Lalo and Dvorak, Variations on a Rococo Theme by Tchaikovsky, and concertos which D'Alber and Dohnanyi composed for him.
One's picture of the German violoncellist will become fuller when aided by the following extracts from Russian reviews of his performance of concertos by Bazzini (1891), Haydn, Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme (1902), pieces by Tartini, Liszt, Popper and other composers: "As for the character of phrasing and some other devices," wrote a St. Petersburg critic, "Becker is rather a classic than a romantic. The remarkable thing about his technique is the timing and ease with which he surmounts various difficulties. His sound is broad and beautiful in general." Eleven years later, another St. Petersburg reviewer pointed to Becker's virtuoso technique, graceful phrasing, and impeccable intonation."'
According to some of his contemporaries, Becker's performing style was distinguished for nobility, virility, logic and intelligent phrasing. Hans von Bulow once said: "You are the only cellist who plays with virility." The meaning behind these words becomes clear if we remember that at the beginning of the century, the violoncello was universally considered, especially in Germany, "an instrument of the soul" suited mainly for expressing sentimental lyricism. But Becker had a very different point of view. In the book mentioned above, he wrote: "The violoncello is a virile instrument, able more than any other string instrument to embody along with the repleteness of feeling, its chivalrous, vigorous and exalted content." Becker developed his own teaching method, making creative use of the achievements of different schools, and basing himself on his own performing experience.
Fascinated by the achievements of physiology at the beginning of the century, many music teachers began searching for the physiologically justified playing movements and the most natural performing devices. Thus, Becker's attraction to Dr. F.A. Steinhausen's works seems quite normal, as they were directed to the scientifically objective reasons for a musician's playing movements as he is playing. Equally logical was his collaboration in creating the planned work with Dr. Dago Rynar (who played the cello and was familiar with Becker's school), the pupil and follower of Steinhausen. Becker hoped to overcome the limits of empirical subjectivism, and aided by the positive aspects of the "anatomical physiological" school, to avoid at the same time the gap between theory and musical practice peculiar to it. The first part of the work, "Technique", was mainly the work of Rynar, and dealt with the physiology of the playing motions, but the principal author of the entire book, to say nothing of the second part dedicated to the esthetics of the art of the violoncello, was undoubtedly Hugo Becker.
The main subject of the book was Becker's methodological and esthetic views as a cellist and pedagogue, and the dominant principles of his school. What makes it so valuable is the search to conceive of the technical and esthetic problems as a united whole. 61 As a concert musician and pedagogue, he based his book on the artistic and methodological analyses of the greatest events in music, from the classical 18th century composers (Bach, Haydn) to his contemporaries (Richard Strauss, Reger, Hindemith). It is this part of the book which is of topical interest today.
The performing analyses were preceded by chapters on rhythm, dynamics, accentuation, rubato device, phrasing slurs, embellishments, (ornamentation) vibrato, etc. Special attention was paid to the musical interpretation and expressiveness of the performance, which revealed a truly progressive concept of esthetics . In the foreword to the performing analyses called "Experiments in Analyses", Becker expounded his thesis that the teacher should never impose his point of view either on a pupil or on a more mature artist, but should awaken their active thinking and their independence in solving performing problems, thus contributing to the progress of their art. He prefers the classics, because "anyone not brought up on the examples of the old masters will not be able to impeccably solve the different problems of contemporary music."
Becker introduced his method of the performing embodiment of the composer's idea by using the analysis of the First Bach Suite as an example. Basing himself on Ernst Kurth's doctrine of linear counterpoint, he warned his readers to reject the etude-like interpretation of the parts of a suite with a rhythmically monotonous texture (this refers especially to preludes), which will happen "if a musician cannot read between the lines and find the melodic line alongside the harmonic texture. . . In some cases he will even be able to reveal and recreate the pronounced polyphony." As is evident, Becker directed the performer's attention to one of the most important requirements in interpreting the Bach suites: revealing the hidden polyphony. His ideas of dynamics, agogics, character of the dancing parts, etc. are also interesting.
Equally significant are his performing analyses of the concertos by Haydn (D Major), Saint-Saens, Dvorak and the violoncello part in Don Quixote by Strauss. In the analysis of the Dvorak concerto, Becker referred to his own interpretation, which was approved by the illustrious Czech composer who attended the concert in Prague on April 30, 1897.
Analyzing the violoncello obligato part in Don Quixote by Richard Strauss, Becker, who had played it under the direction of the composer himself, paid special attention to the study of the literary hero of the symphonic poem (to the "Knight of the Sad Countenance" created by Cervantes) as well as to the score as a whole. He subordinated all means of expression to recreating the image and to its numerous modifications.
Having received the manuscript of the analysis, Richard Strauss wrote to Hugo Becker: "Dear friend! Your valuable work about Don Quixote gave me the greatest joy. If I unfortunately no longer have the chance of seeing the ideal interpreter of Don Quixote, who is a true master of the violoncello himself, standing in front of the orchestra, his analyzing and teaching work left for his pupils and colleagues is the best legacy that the author of this curious piece could wish for. I thank you a thousand times for it, and hope that your creation will soon be published and serve as a valuable aid for all cellists, if they are only able to comprehend it and bring it to life.
"But of course, all the beautiful analyses are unable to replace the wonderful original interpretation which I always remember with gratitude and delight. Yours sincerely, Richard Strauss."
In this book, Becker also made extensive use of examples from suites by Bach, sonatas by Boccherini, Valentini and Locatelli, sonatas by Beethoven, Brahms and Strauss, concertos by Schumann and Saint Saens, pieces by Davydov and Popper, Reger's Second Suite for Violoncello Solo which was dedicated to him, as well as from many other cello and chamber music compositions.
At the end of the book, the author gives a brief survey of how the art of the violoncello had evolved. He wrote about the "splendid triple constellation" formed by the names of Romberg, Servais and Davydov, and said that the Russian violoncellist developed the achievements of the first two "according to the spirit of the time and used them to deepen musical expressiveness."
Becker's book was highly acclaimed by Pablo Casals, Enriko Mainardi, Ernst Cahnbley and many other outstanding violoncellists. And although the esthetics of concert performing style, the teaching of music, methods, as well as the art of the cello itself have been elevated to a new and higher level since the time it was first published, the book is still of great interest to contemporary violoncellists, performers and teachers alike.
Becker died on July 30, 1941 in Geiselgasteig, near Munich.
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