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ClassicsOnline Home » CHOPIN, F.: Cello Sonata / Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3 / Grand Duo (Kliegel, Glemser)
"Chopin's Cello Sonata is surely one of the most glorious works in the entire repertoire...And Maria Kliegel certainly seems well-suited to this work, lavishing much colour and subtle rubato in the first movement, greatly propelled forward by some marvellous piano playing from Bernd Glemser..."
Fryderyk Chopin (1810–1849)
Music for Cello and Piano
Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op. 65
Polonaise brillante in C major, Op. 3
(ed. Emanuel Feuennann)
Grand Duo Concertant in E major on Themes from Robert le Diable
(in collaboration with Auguste Franchomme)
Nocturne in C sharp minor, B.I. 49
(arr. Gregor Piatigorsky)
Étude in E minor, Op. 25, No.7
(arr. Alexander Glazunov)
Waltz in A minor, Op. 34, No.2
(arr. Lev Ginzburg)
Étude in D minor, Op. 10, No.6
(arr. Alexander Glazunov)
Fryderyk Chopin was born in 1810 at Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw. His father Nicolas Chopin was French by birth but had moved to Poland to work as an accounting clerk, later serving as tutor to the Laczynski family and thereafter to the family of Count Skarbek, one of whose poorer relatives he married. His subsequent career led him to the Warsaw Lyceum as a respected teacher of French, and it was there that his only son, Fryderyk, godson of Count Skarbek, whose Christian name he took, passed his childhood.
Chopin showed an early talent for music. He learned the piano from his mother and then with the eccentric Adalbert Zywny, a violinist of Bohemian origin, and as fiercely Polish as Chopin’s father. His later training in music was with Jozef Elsner, director of the Warsaw Conservatory, at first as a private pupil and then as a student of that institution.
In the 1820s Chopin had already begun to win for himself a considerable local reputation, but Warsaw offered relatively limited opportunities. In 1830 he set out for Vienna, a city where he had aroused interest on a visit in the previous year and where he now hoped to make a more lasting impression. The time, however, was ill-suited to his purpose. Vienna was not short of pianists, and Thalberg, in particular, had out-played the rest of the field. During the months he spent there Chopin attracted little attention, and resolved to move to Paris.
The greater part of Chopin’s professional career was to be spent in France, and particularly in Paris, where he established himself as a fashionable teacher and as a performer in the houses of the rich. His playing in the concert hall was of a style less likely to please than that of the more flamboyant Liszt or than the technical virtuosity of Kalkbrenner. It was in the more refined ambience of the fashionable salon that his genius as a composer and as a performer, with its intimacy, elegance and delicacy of nuance, found its place.
Chopin could not but admire the ability of Liszt, while not sharing his taste in music. His own background had been severely classical, based on the music of Bach, Mozart and Haydn, and by these standards Beethoven, the object of adulation for Liszt and his circle, seemed on occasion uncouth, by comparison with the classical restraint of Mozart’s pupil Hummel. At the same time he held reservations about the Bohemian way of life that Liszt followed, although he himself was to become involved in a liaison with the novelist George Sand (Aurore Dudevant), which lasted for some ten years, coming to an end two years before his death, while Liszt’s more dramatic association with another married woman, a less successful blue-stocking, the Comtesse d’Agoult, forced his withdrawal from Paris society. Both women were to take literary revenge on their paramours.
Paris was to provide Chopin with a substantial enough income as a teacher, and there was a ready market for his compositions, however reluctant he might be to commit them to paper. The country retreat of George Sand at Nohant provided a change of air that was certainly healthier for him than that of Mallorca, where, in 1838, the couple spent a disastrous winter that intensified the weakness of Chopin’s lungs, already affected by the tuberculosis from which he was to die.
In 1848 political disturbances in Paris made teaching impossible, and Chopin left the city for a tour of England and Scotland. By this time his health had deteriorated considerably. At the end of the year he returned to Paris, now too weak to play or to teach and dependent on the generosity of others for subsistence. He died there on 17th October, 1849.
The greater part of Chopin’s music was written for his own instrument, the piano. At first it seemed that works for piano and orchestra would be a necessary part of his stock-in-trade, but the position he found for himself in Paris enabled him to write principally for the piano alone, in a characteristic idiom that derives some inspiration from contemporary Italian opera, much from the music of Poland, and still more from his own adventurous approach to harmony and his own sheer technical ability as a player.
Among the compositions of Chopin for instruments other than the piano are three works for cello and piano. The most substantial of these is the Sonata in G minor, Opus 65, written in Paris in 1845 and 1846. It was dedicated to his friend, the cellist Auguste Franchomme, and the last three movements were played in 1848 by Franchomme and Chopin at the latter’s last concert. The first movement, marked Allegro moderato, starts with the first phrase of the first subject, played by the piano and then taken up and extended by the cello. There is a B flat major second subject and this leads, after a closing passage, to the central development, which opens with a reference to the principal theme and continues with delicate exploration of other keys and an abridged recapitulation. The D minor Scherzo allows the cello the opening melody, before a more equitable division of labour. To this the D major trio section acts as a foil, with the cello now enjoying melodic prominence, before the return of the scherzo. There is a shift of key to B flat major for the slow movement Largo, opening with a singing cello melody, taken up gently by
the piano. The last movement opens dramatically enough, the piano theme taken up by the cello, which later introduces the contrasting second subject, presented simply enough at first, before being offered in a varied form, with cello double-stopping and allowing, from the piano, a resumption of the tarantella rhythm that dominates the movement, gathering energy as the end approaches. The piano writing is characteristic throughout, but the voice of the cello remains clearly differentiated.
The first work for cello and piano in order of composition, the Polonaise brillante in C major, Opus 3, was written in 1829 and 1830 and published the following year in Vienna. Chopin had received encouragement from Prince Antoine Radziwill and it was during a visit to his estate in the autumn of 1829 that he wrote the Polonaise to which he later added an Introduction. In a letter to his friend Titus Woyciechowski he described it as a brilliant drawing-room piece suitable for the ladies and designed for the Prince’s daughter, Princess Wanda, Chopin’s pupil, who played it with her father, who played the cello. The published work was dedicated to the Warsaw cellist Joseph Merk. The Introduction, marked Lento, opens with a piano flourish, after which the cello introduces part of an expressive melody, interrupted by the piano. The cello resumes, leading to the principal theme of the Introduction. The music moves dramatically into the minor and the section ends with a cadenza, in the edition by Emanuel Feuermann entrusted to the cello. The Alla Polacca, better suited, perhaps, to the abilities of the Radziwills, allows
the cello the first attempt at the polonaise theme, which is then taken up by the piano. Again, in the present edition an element of virtuosity is entrusted to the cello, in a linking passage that leads back to the principal theme. There is a heartfelt F major theme from the cello, but it is the principal theme which eventually dominates.
The Grand Duo Concertant in E major is very different in origin. It is based on themes from Meyerbeer’s opera Robert le Diable, a work that strongly impressed Chopin when he first arrived in Paris, though his taste for this kind of grand opera diminished as time went on. The work was first staged at the Opéra on 21st November 1831 and won astounding success. Pianists in Paris, Thalberg, Herz, Adam, Kalkbrenner and Liszt, tumed to it for transcriptions, fantasies and other derivative works. In his own Grand Duo based on themes from the opera Chopin collaborated with the cellist Auguste Franchomme, who rewrote the cello part of the earlier Polonaise brillante and arranged for cello and piano two Nocturnes by Chopin and possibly other works.
The piano opens the C sharp minor Introduction, marked Largo, allowing only the briefest appearance of the cello, before announcing the first theme, marked Andantino. The work makes use of the first act Romanza and the chorus Non pietà from the same act, as well as the fifth act Le mie cure ancor dei cielo, among other elements from the opera, and is in a style well able to hold its own with the transcriptions and arrangements of other Paris piano virtuosi.
The present release ends with four transcriptions of piano works for cello and piano, a practice that continues the work of Franchomme in this respect. The Nocturne, B.I. 49 dates from 1830 and was published sixteen years after Chopin’s death. The present arrangement is by the great cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. The well known Étude, Opus 25, No.7, from the second set of studies, here in a transcription by Glazunov, transposed from C sharp minor to E minor, has a melody that lends itself well to the cello, as does the gentle melancholy of the Waltz, Opus 34, No.2, of 1831, transcribed by the Russian cellist Lev Ginzburg. The final transcription, of the Étude, Opus 10, No.6, dating probably from the summer of 1830, Chopin’s last summer in Warsaw, provides a moving postscript, the transcription and transposition from E flat minor to D minor by Glazunov.
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