Chopin’s influences, Pt. 2: Chopin’s solo piano music and the cello, by Sara Davis Buechner

The influences upon Franchomme by Chopin are multifold, as I’ve written in my doctoral thesis, my album notes and most recently in Dover’s Franchomme publication.  But what about the influences of the cellist upon Chopin?  A few weeks ago, I wrote this post from my cellist’s perspective. I recently discussed the topic by email with the celebrated (and now cello-brated) pianist Sara Davis Buechner, whom I’m honored to call my friend.  I invited her to write her own essay about this, and she replied:

Dear Louise:

I was tempted to politely dismiss your kind invitation yesterday to write a little something about Chopin and the cello, yet this morning recalled the many piano lessons that have turned into frustrating urgings to students, who seem to know nothing of string playing, chamber music in general, or the importance of phrasing, breathing, bowing, etc. So out of PURE SELFISHNESS, I looked up a few favorite “cello” passages in my Chopin scores, and cobbled together a little essay for you. I will be sharing it with my piano students, too!  Thanks, Louise, and bravo again on the Franchomme project! Yay!

Her essay follows! As I told Sara, there’s clearly much more to be written about this fascinating topic  – but if you’d like to use any of this material, please contact me for citation instructions.

Notes On Chopin and the Cello

by Sara Davis Buechner ©2017

The extraordinary piano music of Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849) –being enough discussed, over-played, and analyzed to death, by too many performers, teachers and musicologists — is not a subject much given to my own natural literary impulses, in terms of adding yet more commentary to that already immense (if valuable) pile. Nonetheless the Dover re-publication of cello music by Chopin’s devoted friend August Franchomme (1808 – 1884), in a new edition by my esteemed colleague Louise Dubin, elicits my observations here.

Responsible pianists everywhere place great attention on the dextrous innovations largely credited to Chopin at the outset of the Romantic Era — a style of writing for the instrument that is quintessentially pianistic in terms of exploiting the human hand’s natural ability to project the myriad colors and shadings of the piano. In the course of conquering the manifold technical difficulties inherent in any fine performance of Chopin’s works, the pianist must also unravel the many influences upon the Polish master that contributed to his bold, even revolutionary musical style — Bach’s counterpoint; Mozart’s formal purity; the pedagogic innovations of Muzio Clementi, Carl Czerny and Friedrich Kalkbrenner; the folk music of Poland; and most essentially, the lyrical sound, phrasing and breathing of great Italian opera.

Chopin’s intimate and singular melodic genius is buttressed by keen and exciting bass parts, which often exploit his knowledge of the cello. Besides the well known “Cello Étude” in C sharp minor op. 25 no. 7 — an extended melody for the left hand which could easily be performed as a duo with piano (playing the treble line), there are numerous piano pieces in Chopin’s canon whose interpretation can be improved by an awareness of the cellistic sound of certain passages.

There are possibly too many such left-hand passages to enumerate, but a short list could include:

         Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise op. 22

The left-hand part of the entire opening Andante could make for a most attractive cello solo Prelude.

         Ballade no. 3 in A flat major op. 47

The transitional section in C sharp minor, measures 157 – 165.

         Mazurka in C minor op. 56 no. 3

The four-voice contrapuntal nature of the opening measures should lead to a clear examination of the left hand itself, in the nature of a duo for two cellos.

         Nocturne in F major op. 15 no. 1

Pianists who over-concentrate on the double-note challenges in the stormy minor passage, measures 37 – 48, often neglect the cellistic nature of the melody in the left hand.

         Nocturne in E major op. 62 no. 2

Transitional section, measures 32 – 39.

         Piano Sonata no. 2 in B flat minor op. 35

In the middle of the Scherzo movement (“Più lento”), there is a profoundly cello-inspired passage for left hand, measures 144 –  161.

         Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61

The beatific passage beginning at measure 148 (“Poco più lento”) is suffused throughout with lovely ostinato undulations in the left hand, ideal for the sound of the cello.

         Prélude in C sharp minor op. 45

This lesser-known Prélude demonstrates one of the most remarkable qualities in Chopin’s style — his ability to transform techniques with larger perspective. Here again one may see cellistic writing in the left hand. But it does not limit itself solely to that interpretation, as the arpeggios that unfold from the bass of the keyboard upward actually reach high, well beyond cello range. As if the cello itself turns into a harp about midway on its journey.

         Prélude in B minor op. 28 no. 6

Essentially a melodic study for the left hand.

         Waltz in A minor op. 34 no. 2

The opening and closing of this well-known Waltz is essentially a melody for cello, accompanied by the right hand part of the piano.

Lastly, I’ll mention that one of the most-failed question on Piano Literature examinations is: “How many Sonatas did Frédéric write? The answer, of course, being four — the three solo Piano Sonatas and the Sonata for Cello and Piano op. 65, written for Franchomme. It may be fairly argued that of these four works, the Cello Sonata is the most successful, in terms of formal perfection and melodic directness.

We must always recall that, after his output for solo piano (and piano concertos), the next most-explored genres of Chopin’s repertoire consist of chamber music for cello, and vocal music. Clearly in his mind, the sound of these two instruments was similar, alluring, and reflective of what he wished to achieve sonically on the piano. To play Chopin on the piano is always (as my teacher Byron Janis would exhort) to sing. With the right hand Soprano or the left hand Cello.

Sara Davis Buechner, Philadelphia 2017

Franchomme performance on APR’s Performance Today @perf_today: broadcast replays for 30 days 

This month, hear my performance with Julia Bruskin of Franchomme’s Nocturne Op. 14, No. 1 on Fred Child’s Performance Today!  We were on air on MPR and its many affiliated stations on August 15, 2017, and for the next 30 days, you can listen to the broadcast here, and see the full playlist.

Performance Today is the fabulous MPR/APR nationally syndicated radio show hosted by Fred Child.  This performance was from our album release celebration concert at John Street Church in lower Manhattan, picture above. Find our world premiere recording of this same nocturne (and many other pieces) on our album The Franchomme Project.

Thanks for the recording, Robert Olmsted, and thank you Julia Bruskin Wunsch, Katherine Cherbas, Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, and Helene Jeanney for making this concert great!

Some juicy details about Dover’s Franchomme Publication/Ma description de la publication Franchomme par Dover

©2017  Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Louise Dubin

On May 17, 2017, Dover Publications released Selected Works for Cello and Piano by Auguste Franchomme, with Introduction by Louise Dubin. Many libraries have already acquired it, including Juilliard, Columbia and University of Chicago; check the constantly updating list on worldcat to find a copy near you.

These works have been out of print for over a century, and are reprinted here from their first editions, which include Franchomme’s original fingerings and bowings. The Introduction includes a good representation of my research, as well as some unpublished photos from Franchomme’s descendants. It should be interesting reading for any historian of early Romantic music (he was best friends with Chopin after all), and provide repertoire for cellists looking for unknown pearls.  Please read below for more details, in English and French!

Selected Works for Cello and Piano by Auguste Franchomme, with Introduction by Louise Dubin. Dover Publications: Mineola, New York, 17 mai 2017.

Dover Publications a juste publié Selected Works for Cello and Piano by Auguste Franchomme, with Introduction by Louise Dubin. Les œuvres que j’ai sélectionnées ont été épuisées pendant plus d’un siècle, injustifiablement, et sont réimprimées ici des premières éditions qui incluent les doigtés et les coups d’archet indiqués par Franchomme. La Préface comprend une bonne représentation de mes recherches et quelques photos jamais autrefois publiées pas ses descendants. Ce devrait être une lecture intéressante pas seulement pour les violoncellistes, mais pour tous historiens de la musique romantique (Franchomme était le meilleur ami de Chopin après tout). Également, ce livre offre un répertoire nouveau pour les violoncellistes qui cherchent les perles inconnues.

Le violoncelliste Auguste Franchomme (1808-1884) est souvent rappelé comme l’ami et le collaborateur de Chopin. Mais en son temps, il était reconnu comme l’un des meilleurs violoncellistes en Europe. Ainsi que jouer la musique de chambre avec Chopin, Alard et beaucoup d’autres, il était également le violoncelliste solo de la Musique du Roi du Louis-Philippe, de l’Orchestre du Théâtre Italien et plusieurs autres orchestres, enseigné le violoncelle pendant 38 ans au Conservatoire de Paris, et publié plus de 50 œuvres originales pour son instrument. Les compositions de violoncelle de Franchomme sont des exemples superbes des genres popularisés par les violonistes et les pianistes au début du 19ème siècle, notamment les airs variés, les fantaisies, les caprices et les nocturnes (Franchomme a composé les premiers nocturnes en style Chopin pour le violoncelle). Ils comprennent souvent des airs et des thèmes d’opéra qui étaient familiers à son public.

Beaucoup de compositions de Franchomme démontrent sa technique virtuose de la main gauche et ses motifs élégants de l’archet, augmentant des pratiques de ses prédécesseurs Bernhard Romberg, Charles-Nicolas Baudiot, Jean-Louis Duport et les autres. Alors que son écriture de violoncelle atteint les nouveaux sommets de virtuosité, elle provient d’un tempérament raffiné; souvent douce, mélancolique ou humoristique, mais jamais inélégante, ironique, ou enflée. Ses pièces laissent de l’espace pour la réflexion. Dans l’Introduction, je discute des innovations de dans sa technique de violoncelle et ses compositions, y compris les influences sur et par Chopin.

Les Caprices, op. 7 et les Études, op. 25 de Franchomme ne sont pas épuisés, et ils sont dans les collections aux nombreux violoncellistes. Mais beaucoup de ses autres œuvres, y compris les compositions que j’ai sélectionnées pour ce volume, ont été épuisées depuis la mort de Franchomme en 1884, sinon plus longtemps. Plusieurs de ces pièces ont de grandes histoires attachées, comme j’explique dans ma Préface.

Ce volume offre aux violoncellistes des pièces charmantes à ajouter à leur répertoire. Certaines de ces œuvres sont déjà connues à cause des enregistrements de Roel Dieltiens, Anner Bylsma, et moi-même. Ce volume comprend également certains des arrangements de Franchomme des œuvres de Chopin, ainsi que sa collaboration avec George Osborne. Avec la recherche originale incluse dans ma Préface, ce volume devrait intéresser pas seulement les violoncellistes, mais aussi tous personnes qui s’occupent aux sujets de technique d’instruments à cordes, Chopin et musique du XIXe siècle en général.

English version:

The French cellist-composer Auguste Franchomme (1808-1884) is often remembered as Chopin’s friend and collaborator, but in his day he was renowned as one of the best cellists in Europe. In addition to performing chamber music with Chopin, Alard, and many others, he also served as the solo cellist of Louis-Philippe’s Musique du Roi, the Théâtre Italien and several other orchestras, taught for 38 years at the Paris Conservatoire, and published over 50 original works for his instrument.  Franchomme’s cello compositions are superb examples of the genres popularized by violinists and pianists in early 19th century Paris, especially airs variés, fantaisies, caprices, and nocturnes (Franchomme composed the first ever Chopin-style nocturnes for the cello). They often feature tunes and opera themes that were familiar to his audiences.

Many of Franchomme’s compositions showcased his virtuosic left hand technique and elegant bowing patterns, expanded from the practices of his predecessors Bernhard Romberg, Charles-Nicolas Baudiot, Jean-Louis Duport, and others. While his cello-writing reaches new heights of virtuosity, it comes from a refined temperament and is often sweet, melancholy or humorous, but never bombastic or angst-ridden. I discuss Franchomme’s innovations both in his cello technique and his compositions, including possible influences on and from Chopin, in the Introduction.

Franchomme’s Caprices, Op. 7 and Etudes, Op. 25 are in print and owned by many cellists. But many of his other works, included the compositions I selected for this volume, have been out of print since Franchomme’s death in 1884, if not longer.

This volume offers cellists charming, challenging new pieces to add to their concert repertoire. Several have great stories attached to them, as I explain in the Introduction. I included some of the works that are already becoming known through recordings released by Anner Bylsma, Roel Dieltiens, and myself. Also featured are some of Franchomme’s arrangements of Chopin’s piano works, as well as his collaboration with George Osborne. Due to the original research included, this volume should be of interest not only to cellists, but also to any scholar of string instrument technique, Chopin, and 19th century music in general.

Festival de Violoncelle de Beauvais, France, May 20, 2017

I’m a bit late with these, but here are some photos from the Festival de Violoncelle de Beauvais, where I had a great time performing with Helene Jeanney and Philippe Muller in the first concert (Franchomme and Chopin, with my stories for the audience in French!), and then performing the cello sonatas by Koechlin and Debussy in concerts that night.  The later concerts also featured lots of fascinating, rarely-played cello repertoire performed by cellists Emmanuelle Bertrand, Philippe Muller and Matthieu LeJeune and pianists Pascal Amoyel, Hélène Jeanney, and Emmanuelle Le Cann– including some particularly intriguing works by Saint-Saens, DuParc and Cras! It was a satisfying day (followed by well-earned wine and cheese in the kitchen), and a lovely trip.BeauvaisBows2BeauvaisBowsIMG_2300

Who was the guiding force in their creative collaborations, Franchomme or Chopin? Part One

©2017  Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Louise Dubin

Because of this blog, I receive some interesting email queries. One that has come up a few times is the cross-influence of Chopin and Franchomme—to what extent, and in what direction?

For almost 2 centuries, many (including Schumann) have assumed that Chopin was the guiding force.  But in my Introduction to the freshly published Selected Works for Cello & Piano by Auguste Franchomme (May 2017, Dover Publications: click here for Table of Contents), I discuss some examples of how Franchomme may have influenced Chopin (and vice versa). I’ve posted some excerpts below. After an email discussion this week with my friend, the great pianist and pedagogue Sara Davis Buechner, I invited her to share her own observations on the same topic, from a pianist’s perspective. Stay tuned for her fascinating post!

FranchommeCover

From my Introduction© to the Dover volume:

“After Chopin’s death, Franchomme sorted through the hundreds of pages of manuscripts that Chopin left to him and prepared several posthumous works for publication, including the Mazurka, Op. 68, No. 4. He contributed to the complete Chopin editions prepared by Chopin’s pupils Tellefsen (1860) and Mikuli (1880), and helped edit the Breitkopf & Härtel Chopin edition (1878–1880). All of this exposure to Chopin’s music must have inspired Franchomme’s 50-odd arrangements of his solo piano works for various cello combinations (many unpublished), including the Nocturnes, Op. 55, and the 1870 arrangements included in this volume. Chopin was also the direct inspiration for some of Franchomme’s original compositions, including his gorgeous Trois Nocturnes, Op. 15 (1839, included here) …The nocturnes of both Chopin and Franchomme feature aria-like melodies over broken chords, and usually have a ternary structure. Franchomme was the first composer of nocturnes for cello in this form…”

“Franchomme also influenced the works that Chopin composed for the cello, both directly and perhaps indirectly. We know that Franchomme performed Chopin’s cello works with him, and suggested changes to his Introduction and Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3 that Chopin incorporated into subsequent published editions. Chopin played his Op. 65 with Franchomme privately before completing it, and likely incorporated Franchomme’s suggestions into the final publication. In addition, Franchomme’s decade of performances in the Théâtre-Italien certainly inspired his own music, and may also have contributed to Chopin’s fascination with the Italian aria, and his incorporation of this vocal style into his solo piano writing…”

Cross-influence between Chopin and Franchomme in fingerings, phrasing, and style- this is where it gets technical, y’all!

“…Franchomme’s years of playing with singers clearly informed some of his fingerings.”  For example, he “…relished slides under a slur on one string…which are rather out of style today and which even Duport had advised against except as a last resort, to avoid a ‘disagreeable sound.’”

Despite Duport’s warning, Franchomme apparently executed these slides with great taste. In the words of Henri Blanchard, “suave et pur, élégant et mélodique” (Revue et gazette musicale de Paris, April 25, 1841). Incidentally, similar vocal qualities in Chopin’s music were noticed by Charles Rosen! He wrote in The Romantic Generation that Chopin “composed with a sense of melody and a way of sustaining the melodic line derived directly from Italian Opera.”

In the Dover publication I also discuss “an even more remarkable fingering choice: Franchomme’s use of the same playing finger on several successive descending notes in a row. The most extreme example I have found occurs in his Fantasie sur Souvenirs de ‘Richard Coeur de Lion’ de Grétry, Op. 27, where he uses the third finger on a chromatic descent of 13 notes, probably a world record for a cello composition up to that point! Shorter examples of this unique fingering are found throughout Franchomme’s compositions (in this volume, see the three 4th fingers in the opening of his arrangement of Chopin’s Prelude, Op. 28, No. 20, four consecutive notes played with the 4th finger at the end of the introduction of his Op. 23, and the five consecutive descending third fingers in the opening Largo of his Op. 34). In Chopin’s own fingerings printed in his original publications, he often indicated using the same finger on consecutive notes in a melodic passage, for a supple cantabile led by the arm. Watching Chopin’s technique may have inspired these fingerings in Franchomme’s compositions. Or, perhaps Franchomme’s decade at the Théâtre-Italien contributed to Chopin’s own fascination with Italian arias and his incorporation of vocal techniques into his piano fingerings! (Interestingly, a comparison of Chopin’s fingerings to those indicated by Franchomme in his Chopin transcriptions reveals only that they both used this type of repeated fingering, but not in the same places.)”

“Franchomme’s works are full of… long slurs over many notes…[for example, his]  transcription of Chopin’s ‘Cello’ Etude in C Sharp minor, Op. 25, No. 7, (p. 178) is as faithful as possible to Chopin’s long phrase markings, within the parameters of what is possible on the cello….In combination with Franchomme’s tendency to use thumb and harmonic fingerings in melodic lines, these clues suggest a tendency toward faster tempos, and a style of performance favoring elegance over massive sound production,” which seems also to have described Chopin’s playing.

©2017 Louise Dubin

Franchomme Birthday Week Video #4 Salle Gaveau, Paris

Chopin Prelude Op. 28, No. 9 arranged by Auguste Franchomme for 4 cellists, Transcribed from unpublished manuscript by Louise Dubin.  Performers: Louise Dubin, Raphael Pidoux, Gauthier Boutin, Philippe Muller, cellists
Salle Gaveau, December 2nd, 2016 “La Nuit du Violoncelle,” gala concert of VioloncellenSeine, biannual convention of the French Cello Society. World premiere studio recording on The Franchomme Project album: http://www.louise-dubin.com/shop

New Franchomme Cello-Bration Week Concert Videos!

In celebration of Franchomme’s birthday on April 10, 1808, I’m posting one new video per day this week (as well as tweeting them @WeezeeDee). This post has videos #1, #2 and #3…

Video #1 Monday: Happy Birthday ! new Nocturne Op. 15, 1 L Dubin w Philippe Muller VioloncellenSeine 12/2016

Video #2 Tuesday: Franchomme Caprice No. 9 cellists Louise Dubin + Julia Bruskin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05tykg8y3Io&feature=youtu.be

Video #3 Wednesday: Franchomme’s friend Mendelssohn wrote this piece before he came to Paris, for his cellist brother. Variations Concertante, Op. 17 Fabio Parrini pianist + Louise Dubin cellist https://youtu.be/3mOfJKtoIKM from a November 2016 performance