IN taking a retrospective glance at the progressive development which Violoncello playing has displayed from the beginning of the present century, it is evident that this branch of Art has reached so great a degree of perfection that it seems scarcely possible it can rise much higher. This result is not only to be ascribed to the deserving work of the leading Violoncellists-and here must be called to mind, besides Romberg and Dotzauer, pre-eminently Friedrich Kummer, Aug. Franchomme, and Francois Servais-but also to those famous German composers who brought the Violoncello within the sphere of their productions.
Already had Haydn and Mozart appropriated to this noble instrument, in their String Quartets, passages which contributed to the furtherance of the technique and the possibility of expression. Beethoven went much farther even than this. Not only in his String and Pianoforte Trios, as well as in his Quartets, but also in his Sonatas (Op. 5,169, and 102) and in the so-called Triple Concerto (Op. 56), he increased the demands on the Violoncello to such an extent that in certain respects a real impulse was given to the artistic manipulation of the instrument. (In all probability Beethoven's Cello Sonatas (Op. 5), composed at latest in 1796, were the first of their kind. The Sonatas for Piano and Violoncello, written by Donifazio Asioli, of which F. Grutzmacher has brought out a new edition, appeared, as may be concluded from the dates given by Fetis in his "Biographie Universelle," Vol. I, p. 155, first at the beginning of our century.) At the same time, the works referred to had a stimulating effect on the productive work of the future in the field of Cello compositions, which received a considerable accession in regard to Sonatas especially. We will note here only the names of the best known composers, who used their genius in this direction. They follow in alphabetical order: W. STERNDALE BENNETT, JOH. BRAHMS, FR. CHOPIN, FR. GERNSHEIM, EDV. GRIEG, FERD. HILLER, FRIEDRICH KIEL, FRANZ LACHNER, FELIX MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, IGNAZ MOSCHELES, GEORG ONSLOW, JOACHIM RAFF, KARL REINECKE, JOS. RHEINBERGER, ANT. RUBINSTEIN, CHARLES SAINT-SAENS, XAVER SCHARWENKA, BERNHARD SCHOLZ, and W. TAUBERT.
The following have written Concertos for the Violoncello ALBERT DIETRICH, E. ECKERT, BERNH. MOLIQUE, JOACH. RAFF, KARL REINECKE, ANTON RUBINSTEIN, SAINT-SAENS, ROBERT SCHUMANN, W. TAUBERT, and ROB. VOLKMANN. The Concerto which has lately appeared by JHH. BRAHMS, for Violin and Violoncello, must also be mentioned.
Besides these there exist a number, by no means small, of greater and lesser Cello compositions, which deserve to be prominently brought forward-as, for example: MAX BRUCH'S "Kol Nidrei," Op. 47; CHOPIN's Introduction and Polonaise Brilliant, Op. 3, and Duo Concertant on Themes from "Robert le Diable" (the Cello part is Franchomme's production); FR. GERNSHEIM's Hebrew song, "Elohenu"; FERD. HILLER's Concertstuck, Op. 104; Duo for Pianoforte and Violoncello, Op. 22, and two Serenades, Op. 109; FR. LACHNER'S Serenade for four Violoncellos, Op. 29, and Elegy for five Violoncellos,, Op. 160 ; LIMMER's Trio for three Violoncellos and Quartet for four Violoncellos ; M. MARX's three Quartets for four Violoncellos ; MAURER'S Nocturne for four Violoncellos; FELIX MENDELSSOHN'S Variations for Pianoforte and Violoncello, Op. 17; IGN. MOSCHELES's Duo Concertant, Op. 34; L. PAPE's six Serenades for four Violoncellos; F. E. REINECKE'S "Three Pieces," Op. 146; FERD. RIES'S "Air russe varie," as well as Introduction and Rondo "Sur une danse russe"; ROB. SCHUMANN'S five "Stucke im Volkston," Op. 102; and likewise L. SPOHR'S Potpourri for Violin and Violoncello on Themes from "Jessonda." I have only mentioned above the most noteworthy portion of the newer and newest Violoncello compositions. For the remainder I refer to Philippe Roth's "Guide to Violoncello Literature" (Breitkopf and Hartel, Leipsic, 1888).
If to these be added the numberless compositions which Violoncellists of our century have produced in Concertos, Concert pieces, Variations, Fantasias, and Duets for their instrument, it must be admitted that Violoncello literature in the course of time has, increased very extensively.
The "Etudes" compositions for the Violoncello left much to be, desired during the first decade of the present century. On this account the theorist Siegfried Wilhelm Dehn, of some consideration in his time, and who occupied himself in his younger years with Cello playing, may have been induced to arrange a portion, twenty-two in number, of the Kreutzer Violin studies for the Violoncello. This work, however, pUblished by him in June, 1831, cannot be accounted a particularly successful accomplishment. The finger and bow technique, of the Violoncello require an entirely different manner of treatment from that of the Violin. And as these Studies were written according to the capacities of the latter instrument it is evident they can only be made available in a limited degree for the Violoncello. It is not then to be wondered at that the Kreutzer "Etudes," transcribed by Dehn with, the best intention, should have fallen into oblivion, since Violoncellists have more and more sought after a thoroughly suitable system of "Etudes," literature, which has now grown to be a very rich field. During the last ten years the solo manipulation of the Violoncello, has, in certain respects, undergone a change to its advantage in a very remarkable manner. The high and highest tones of the instrument are no longer unduly preferred, as in Romberg's time; but the tenor positions, more in accordance with its character, are chiefly used, without, however, neglecting altogether the lower and the higher parts. The execution of passages has greatly gained thereby. In this respect, it, is true, the Violoncello cannot rival the Violin in brilliancy and agility. The strings of the former being so much longer and thicker, of which the two lower ones are made of correspondingly stout wire, form a natural impediment to the rapid emission of tones in quick runs and groups. In addition the somewhat muffled, though at the same time powerful and full tone of the deeper strings renders difficult a brilliant execution. This is felt more especially in Violoncello Concertos with full orchestral accompaniment. The Violoncello has, however, this advantage: that it lends itself far less to virtuoso exaggerations and confusions than does the easily portable violin, so favourably disposed for every variety of unworthy trifling. The masculine character of the Violoncello, better adapted for subjects of a serious nature, precludes this. But then this instrument does not offer the same wealth in means of execution which the Violin is capable of developing as a solo instrument. In harmonics and pizzicato indeed it is at least equal to it, but in the speed and flexibility of passages, as well as in double-stopped playing, its limits are defined. It follows that on account of the larger dimensions of the Violoncello, and the character of the instrument, double-stopped combinations are far less suitable for the deeper than for the higher strings, a circumstance of which there is no question at all on the Violin.
One of the stronger points which the Violoncello possesses in its favour is its suitability as a solo instrument in Cantilena playing, in which it is not surpassed by any other. If the Violin, with melting soprano and tenor-like voice, speaks to us now with maidenly tenderness, now in clear jubilant tones, the Violoncello, grandly moving for the most part in the tenor and bass positions, stirs the soul by its fascinating sonority and its imposing power of intonation, not less than by the pathos of its expression, which by virtue of its peculiar quality of tone more specially belongs to it than to the Violin.
There is no rivalry between the two instruments, but rather do they mutually enhance each other's power. Even so is it with the themes which devolve on each in the sphere of chamber and orchestral music. It is greatly to be desired that future generations may foster and maintain what has been done for the art of Violoncello playing in so meritorious a manner by unwearied, self-sacrificing labour; but it is to be hoped, at the same time, that the technique of the instrument, so carefully and finely formed, to the subject of which this book is dedicated, may be ever applied in the service of true and noble Art only.
I wrote earlier that only Johann Baptist Baumgartner's tutor could give an explanation concerning the method practised in Germany, with regard to the fourth finger in the thumb position, during the second half of the last century. It was only after this was in the press that the title of a second German Violoncello School of that time became known to me. It is that of Kauer, who was formerly distinguished as an operetta composer in Vienna--"Concise explanation how to play the Violoncello"--which appeared in 1788. It may probably be seen from this work of instruction what the opinion was at that time regarding the fourth finger in the case referred to.
Presented by Cello Heaven