In celebration of the upcoming Baroque cello workshop
A View From the Scroll: African-American Cello History…or as Much of It As We Can Remember
The Cello and its Mysteries of Repertoire...
The Cello and (a few of) its Mysteries of Repertoire: "Thoughts in process"...
When a work of creative art is completed, it takes on a life of its own, automatically and autonomously moving away from its originator in some "anti-Promethean" manner verging on the rebellious at the extreme (or so we might be tempted to muse indulgently).
However, who indeed has started this mysterious foolishness? The composer? The performer? The publisher? The audience? The critics?? Answers to each of these questions are difficult to provide in a complete and evenly conclusive formulation, but those answers we have as a result of scholarly investigation and "sleuthwork" do provide an engaging snapshot of the history of the artistic, musical, pedagogical and commercial development of cello music over the past three centuries.
The celebrated Gavotte by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) was not composed by him, but the French viola da gambist Marin Marais (1656-1728)!! Marais was a composition student of Lully, and both were court musicians under King Louis XIV ("Le roi de soleil") at Versailles. The Richmond Symphony violinist and music appreciation blogger Timothy Judd (www.thelistenersclub.com) makes the following comment about the "Lully Gavotte": "Toward the end of Volume 2 of the Suzuki Violin Repertoire, there's a charming little gavotte attributed to the French baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. It's based on a 1904 arrangement by the German violinist Willy Burmester; it's likely that Shinichi Suzuki heard this arrangement in his twenties when he was studying in Berlin with another German violinist Karl Klinger". In the 1920s and 1930s the "Back to Bach" renaissance was in full swing, as well as the multivalent push to market concert music in live performance, in published sheet music for both home entertainment, formal and informal education, and the marketing of musicians who made such "discoveries" to arrange, perform, record and make a profit (I'll discuss more of that latter motive later). In our time, nonetheless, we appreciate Suzuki's inclusion of the Gavotte as developmental violin (and cello!!) repertoire, as well as the "global" influence of his music education legacy.
From Versailles, Lully and Marais we move on to Milan, London and back to Paris...via the Sonata in G Major of Giovanni Battista Sammartini: many of us hardly recognize the name Martin Berteau (1691-1771), who was often referred to in print as "Signor Martino"...very close in spelling (and probable typo) to Sammartini!! To make matters even more confusing, there were actually TWO Sammartini brothers, Giovanni (1700-1775) andGiuseppe (1695-1770), both of whom were composers and direct contemporaries of Berteau!! After extensive online searching, the following visual tendency has come to light: While the Sammartini brothers are mentioned in close proximity, it is a challenge locating a picture of each one of them distinctly!! The pictures in abundance are most often attributed to Giovanni, but the same likeness is often given to Giuseppe!! This is one of precious few clearly given to Giuseppe...
Aside from "visual" or even cosmetic differences, the MOST confusing issue is that of how the following composer's names were spared the confusion and interchangeability that must have dogged them even to the point of certain humor: Sammartini, S. Martini, St. Martini, San Martino (a name to which we'll return shortly), Signor Martino (and even a "Martino Bitti"). Neither of the Sammartini brothers were cellists, but both wrote chamber and orchestral music. Giuseppe is distinguished as a composer of orchestral and operatic music, while Giovanni composed solo, chamber and orchestral works. The image below is the more familiar but also "equally misattributed" image of one of the brothers...occasionally BOTH!! Their father, Alexis Saint-Martin, was a French oboist; the family lived in Milan, but their talent and training didn't keep them in Milan for very long: numerous opportunities came quickly for performances around the European continent and England.
Giovanni Battista Sammartini
Sir Charles Burney may have made the greatest contribution to the "comedy of mispronunciation" in his mention of "San Martini" in Sammartini's oboe accompaniment to an aria in Nicola Porpora's opera Polifemo (1735). Another London advertisement of six years earlier adds both further mispronunciation and misappropriation: Sammartini is listed in print as "Signor St. Martini of Milan" performing at the Hickford's Concert Room (1729). Their cellist contemporary, Martin Berteau (also referred to in print as "Signor Martino") has been determined to have composed the Sonata in G Major for cello once attributed to Giovanni Battista (and to Giuseppe, whose output also includes a cello sonata). While Martin Berteau is regarded as the "Father of the French School of Cello Playing", it is all but left up to conjecture as to how much traveling and documented performing Berteau did in his lifetime. It stands to simple reason that "the three St. Martini brothers" could have indeed met or performed together; all that is needed is a journaled reference made to them (which is most difficult to locate and give historical verification). Needless to say, the "room for misnomer and misattribution" remains just as large now as it was over three hundred years ago.
The London violinist Henry Eccles (1670-1742) has received centuries of attribution as the composer of the Sonata in g minor for cello and piano, which first appeared amid a volume of twelve sonatas for the violin compiled by Eccles and dedicated to Chevalier Joseph Gage, a well-known English entrepreneur actively engaged in the Parisian social and financial circles of 1720. The misattributed sonata is the eleventh of the set, and is said to be of his own composition; but six other solo works are known to have been "borrowed" from the Italian composers Giuseppe Valentini (1681-1753) and Francesco Bonporti (1672-1749). The art of compositional "borrowing" was common before the advent of commercial publishing on a mass scale, and it may have been that Eccles was "acting as something of an artistic, creative and marketing intermediary" toward his dedicatee. Valentini (whose nickname was "Straccioncino", meaning Little Ragamuffin) and Bonporti have been overshadowed by some of their contemporaries for reasons both understandable and mysterious. Valentini studied with Giovanni Bononcini in Rome (1692-97) and succeeded Arcangelo Corelli as concertino director at San Luigi dei Francesi (1710-41). Bonporti directly influenced Johann Sebastian Bach through the development of the invention; Bach transcribed four of his violin pieces (opus 10) for harpsichord. An ordained priest most of his life, his output numbers just twelve opera (works or groups of works).
While several of Bonporti's works were included in collections of works copied for use by Johann Sebastian Bach, the aria "Bist du bei mir", long attributed to Bach (via the published set) is actually by Gottfried Heinrich Stolzel (1690-1749). Like Bach, Stolzel was well-known during his lifetime (a fellow honorary member of Lorenz Mizler's Society of Musical Sciences, inducted in 1739; Bach would follow in 1747), yet forgotten by the early 19th century. Bach performed Stolzel's cantatas and instrumental music during the 1735 liturgical year in Leipzig. Fortunately, two of his arias from his operas were included in two instructional and recreational "music notebooks" for Bach's oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann, and his second wife Anna Magdalena.
Gottfried Heinrich Stolzel
The next subtopic deals not with the "misattributed", but the "appropriated"...mainly and often for purposes of repertory development and stylistic "celebration" instead: the transcriptive works of Gaspar Cassado (1897-1966) and Henri Casadesus (1879-1947). Cassado--the eminent Spanish cellist, student and fellow native Catalonian of Pablo Casals, was invited to study with Casals after a recital he gave in Barcelona at age nine!! (And he started playing cello at age seven!!) He became one of the most celebrated concert cellists of the first half of the 20th century, and enjoyed some of the public and critical acclaim that Pablo Casals walked away from when he retired from the concert stage in protest against the Spanish Civil War. He also was a gifted composer and arranger who made numerous contributions to the cello repertoire through his transcriptions. However, in light of the standards of "creative and artistic economy" of our time, he went a bit too far in composing the Toccata and claiming that it was a work of Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643). This represents another "creative point on the star of aesthetic notoriety", that of having written a work of art but stating it to be the work of an already renowned artist when it would've been just as felicitous to place one's own name in print as the composer. According to one source, Cassado did not consider himself a "serious" composer; however, we can't know in completion what Cassado REALLY thought of his compositional gift beyond notions of "professional" music composition. We DO know that the Toccata is a fine work of cello writing that has stood both tests of time and technical substance among cellists and audiences since its "publication" (and probable composition) in 1925.
Henri Casadesus comes from the Casadesus dynasty of French concert musicians and artists which now extends five generations. His nephew and niece, Robert and Gaby Casadesus were both concert pianists. Of his immediate generation of seven other siblings his brother, Marcel was a cellist; brothers Francis and Marius were composers. The question of exactly how or why within a family of so much prodigious and fecund talent the practice of "musical forgery" occurred with such regularity remains a unique mystery . However, violist and music history blogger Sarah Stull of The Royal Conservatory of Scotland (https://theviolaexperiment.wordpress.com/2013/03) has provided "partial absolution" (pun intended): "Actually written by Henri Casadesus himself in the style of the purported composer, J. C. Bach., the viola concerto has an intriguing history. According to his own version of the tale, violist Henri Casadesus first presented the piece to Madame Salabert in Paris, 1947, asking her to publish it in memory of her recently deceased husband, Francis Salabert. The preface in the score states that the concerto was received in 1916 by Casadesus from Camille Saint-Saens. Casadesus claimed only to have edited the piece, and had ‘evidence’ to document its original performance in 1789 on viola-de-gamba. Upon Casadesus’s death in 1947, however, it was discovered that it was all a forgery: every piece of evidence was false. The piece’s name reflects the original confusion: ‘The J. C. Bach/Casadesus Concerto.’ It is a strident piece, full of Romantic harmonies beneath the Classical facade. Musical forgeries were hugely popular in the period between 1860-1935, as there was little chance of being caught. This was because most of the knowledge of the preceding musical era had been lost, save for composer’s names. Thus, forgers were able to work unhindered, making a living off the un-besmirched names of their predecessors. Even until much later, a great deal of the early musical periods remained unknown. It was easy to pass off one’s own work as the work of another. Other forgers working under the names of the greatest composers included Fritz Kreisler, Ferdinand David, Gaspar Cassado. These men, like Casadesus, passed off their own work as the works of great composers, including Paganini, Vivaldi, Mozart, and even Schubert".
Henri Casadesus was also a co-founder of the Society of Ancient Instruments along with Camille Saint-Saens, just as the resurgent effort of "rediscovery of many things ancient" was taking hold in Europe via the academy and government office. While the loss of original and accurate information about past musical traditions is a somber reality, the need of "spurious recreation above the real and accurate" can seem as alluring in 2016 as it must have been in 1947. Nevertheless, to a most fortunate extent our knowledge, acceptance and appreciation of Johann Christian Bach's ACTUAL compositions now provide us ample room for both appraisal and criticism of Casadesus's Concerto in c minor. It is a fine work that recalls some of the stile galante of J. S. Bach's sons, and certainly the neoclassical "pastiche" that was unavoidable in his time...and just as much in ours.
While the Concerto in c minor of J. C. Bach is shared by violists with cellists (or better yet "the other way around"!!), the work which represents the notion of "appropriation and attribution gone overboard" is the "revision and near complete overhaul" of the Concerto in B flat Major of Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) as re-arranged by Friedrich Gruetzmacher(1832-1903). This work occupies its own place of unhallowed oddity: a mixture of his compositional revision (of most of the opening movement's content and exchange of another movement from one of the many sonatas as the middle movement of the Concerto), his obvious admiration for the wealth of cello and chamber music available to his generation for the benefit of teachers and students alike, and his apparent "need to fill in and improve upon the stylistic shortcomings" of the original concerto. The result that we have is both interesting and, quite honestly, a strange work that certainly reflects Gruetzmacher's solid technique and yet flies in the face of the original work's sense of what was really the constantly developing but not "fully calcified" Classical style. It is this perception that occasionally consigns Boccherini to being regarded as "the odd man out" in most (ironically incomplete) discussions of the Classical Period "representative canon" of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. As in our communal discussions of the solo music of Bach, we must dare to mine and extract the finest "gems" of music written for the cello, and try not to "bicker over the lesser creative deposits"...regardless of how or why they got there in the first place.