Cello Favourites - From Learner to Master
1 Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonatina in D minor (originally for mandolin)
2 Jean Babtiste Breval: Sonata in C major: I. Allegro
3 Georg Friedrich Handel: Aria in F major
4 Domenico dalla Bella: Sonata in C major: II. Giga
5 Henry Eccles: Sonata in G minor: I. Largo
6 Sonata G minor: II. Allegro
7 J.S.Bach: Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007: I. Prelude
8 Suite No. 1 : III. Courante
9 Bach - Gounod: Meditation - Ave Maria
10 J.S.Bach: Arioso from Cantata BWV 156: I Adagio
11 Antonio Vivaldi: Sonata E minor RV 40: I. Largo
12 Sonata E minor : II. Allegro
13 Giovanni Baptista Pergolesi: Nina - from the opera Tre Giorni
14 David Popper: Happy (Fond) Recollections Op. 64, No 1
15 Gabriel Faure: Sicilienne Op 78
16 Cesare Cui: Oriental from Le Kaleidoscope Op. 50, No 9
17 Piotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky: Chanson Triste in G minor
18 Gabriel Marie: La Cinquantaine
19 Piotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky: Valse Sentimental Op. 51, No 6
20 Bernhard Romberg: Sonata E minor Op. 38: I. Allegro non troppo
1 Sonata in C major (Breval) track 2
2 Sonata in e minor (Romberg) track 20
3 Sonata in g minor, Largo (Eccles) track 5
Georg: Beethoven Sonatina, track 1
Gavin: Bach Arioso, track 10
(You find below program and performance notes to all tracks)
The score of 'La Cinquantaine', 'Vivaldi Largo with Baroque ornaments' and Bach-Gounod 'Ave Maria' from this recording are available as free downloads from the web page "sheetmusic" on the linked website: www.georgcello.com.
Georg Mertens published recently a systematic analysis of bow technique (this thesis can also be viewed at the linked website).
You can watch film clips (YouTube) of the following tracks of this recording:
1 (Beethoven) 2 (Breval) 3 (Handel) 4 (Dalla Bella) 7,8 & 10 (Bach) 14 (Popper) 18 (Marie) 19 (Tschaikovsky) and 20 (Romberg)
To this collection
Cello players are in a way lucky. The repertoire for students includes absolutely beautiful works, though many of them are never heard in concerts or on CD.
My students often asked me for recordings of the pieces they study. To my surprise we couldn't find any recording of a number of pieces. The ones we found were either musically dissatisfying study recordings, or the few by well known performers seemed to be played in double the recommended speed, more discouraging for a student than helpful.
I selected here my favourites of a medium level. In this recording I tried to keep the tempi moderate and play with the same refined interpretation as we expect it in the Sonatas of Brahms and Beethoven.
To the recording
When we planned this recording, we went through our CD's and thought: what recordings do we like to listen to most? We found to our surprise, that we both appreciated most recordings, which gave us a feeling that the performers seem to be in a place, where they can express themselves freely. This had shifted the place to make the recording into our homes.
After teaching every fortnight in Mudgee, NSW Australia, some 160km away from my home in the Blue Mountains, I visited my old friend Gavin, we had dinner together and also a glass or two of (the fantastic local) wine. After this pleasure (and before desert) we recorded gradually the music of this CD - that means, when it didn't rain, because the tin roof interrupted quite some nice recordings.
The movements of the Bach solo Suites are recorded in my home.
Georg and Gavin are members of the Blue Mountains Trio, which recorded in 1998 their successful CD "Music for Grand Dining".
1 - Beethoven, Sonatina. (Peters/Stutschewsky) I play virtually all bowings and fingerings recommended. Like in all Beethoven, the articulation is extremely important. A clear distinction between staccato and slurs brings life to the phrasing.
2 - Breval, Sonata C major, Allegro. (Schott/Stutschewsky). Editions by e.g. Schroeder or Suzuki simplify passages, which are not the difficult ones and miss out important musical content. I use the recommended bowings except the slurs in the triplets, which seem rather arbitrary to me.
3 - Handel, Aria (Schott/Rapp from "Alte Meisterweisen"). The melody should sing like a voice. The printed dynamics don't make always sense to me; the middle section line 5 needs to be stronger, not piano. Line 7 should instead be p. The parallel melodies bar 7 and 13 could have the same fingering. (I start bar 15 with down bow again).
4 - Dalla Bella, Giga (Nagels-Baerenreiter/Upmeyer). One of my favourites as a child, also a fantastic study for positions. I slur all triplets (except the 3 before the end note). I also play V V for all crotchets (1/4) plus quavers (1/8) (they always occur in V). This bowing supports the rhythmical weighting and musical phrasing.
5 & 6 - Eccles, Sonata g minor, Largo and Allegro (Schott/Cahrnbley). I don't know any other edition. Edited 1918, Carnbley lived before the time anyone cared about originals and not much was known about Baroque style and performance. All bowings are here in order to impress in a Romantic manner. I changed virtually all bowings to my own intuition and general knowledge about Baroque music.
In the Allegro I play in the theme bow direction units of quavers (1/8).
I recommend for a Baroque sound to hold the bow a few cm more inwards than usually, even allowing to touch the hair, and play the bow very light; also to create a forte by rather playing a faster bow than pushing.
7 & 8 - Bach, Prelude and Courante from Suite No 1, G major (from Werner Icking Music Archive - WIMA). For original bowings the new Baerenreiter edition is the only representative one. I worked out my own edition after comparing all the early manuscripts with the logic of Bach's bowings in his own works for violin solo of which the original survived. To my surprise I found my bowings to be identical with the Werner Icking ones, who also compared the cello with the violin works. -
9 - Bach-Gounod, Ave Maria (Williams/Squire). I start with V. Like a controlled voice we need to control the beginnings and ends of the bow: that the start is gradual, the end not rushed - especially not towards the nut; a bow can finish just where it ends, anywhere, when the time is right, without acceleration.
10 - Bach, Arioso (Fischer/Isaac). It is important to watch, that the first and last note in a slur of quavers (1/8) is played fully out, not rushed in timing or bow speed.
11 & 12 - Vivaldi, Sonata e minor, Largo & Allegro (Baerenreiter/Hoffmann). It is refreshing to play Vivaldi with original bowings and no fingerings written in (there is a simple logic in his fingerings, which occurs by just playing a few times through; it is amazing how artificially complicated and the music contradicting our editions are. I thought always something is wrong with the works until I found this version (edited 2003).
13 - Pergolesi, Nina (Schirmer/Deri). Four bars before the repeat it sounds better and is easier to shift from the high G on D with 3 back to A, ready for 2 on Eb. The pause in the Coda needs to be taken seriously; I like to put a comma between Eb and D, as you do it in a recitativo.
14 - Popper, Happy (Fond) Recollections - In Memory of my Parents (Several editions). The music is a peaceful dialog between the deep voice of the father and the soft high voice of the mother, sometimes dramatic, sometimes telling just little stories.
15 - Faure, Sicilienne (IMC) This piece is originally written for cello and dedicated to Squire. I always wondered about the frequent repetition of G-D, and I imagine a conversation like this preceding the composition: the young talented Squire demonstrated how well he could stretch without difficulty from G to D and even with vibrato!; Faure answering: I write you a piece with x stretches from G to D (9x), Squire answering: please don't! But Faure promised to give the stretch a fancy dressing, sounding really not so bad! - - For me there is always a question and answer game in the theme, the 5th bar ending in a strong D major, where as the following answer in bar 9 should end in p (I start the upbeat D in bar 5 with down bow).
16 - Cui, Oriental (AMEB/Allans) The series of VVV is not meant as a staccato towards the nut, but as a bumping bow at the tip imitating a drum (always, even if there are only 2 notes). In bar 36, most players might find it easier to start in 4th position with 3 (then the recommended 1).
17 - Tschaikovsky, Chanson Triste. There are many editions and many bowing varieties, impossible to relate to. Here are some details: I play all high Bb with down bow (in the outer sections in a slur). I prepare the high Bb every time with a 1 on G. - The middle section should be noticeably more moving ahead and have a freer feel.
18 - Marie, La Cinquantaine (Costallat).This piece, originally written for cello, is dedicated to Monsieur E.Binon. In my old edition the repeats are not written out, and I prefer not to play them. I didn't like the piece for a long time, until I changed the bow direction found in all editions. Many phrases go towards the F in 4th position, which are V; the note tends to sound choked, the harmonic reminds of anything else except lightness. All these F's need to be down bow, the bowings leading to it need changed. Suddenly this piece turns to not boring any more (I start even with a down bow).
19 - Tschaikovsky, Valse sentimental (IMC/Rose) In bar 1 I go already for the A# with 2 in the 4th position; be careful not to tilt the bow inwards for the change to A string or the sound will not be clear. I start bars 30 & 62 with V and start a new bow on the high B to enable a full sound in f; to prepare I play the D# in bars 28 & 60 with V. - For me the outer sections are a slow valse, in a sentimental mood, where as the Piu mosso sections I feel should be noticeably faster.
20 - Romberg, Sonata e-minor, Allegro non troppo (IMC/Jansen) I play most fingerings and bowings. In this movement it is essential to add dynamic markings and not play everything mf. P2 - I start every 2 bar phrase and line 2 with V. In line 5 & 6 it is important to remain for the quaver (1/8) passages before the semibreve (1/1) in the upper half of the bow.