Tag Archives: cello

Dover Franchomme edition now @laBnF and other libraries!

I’m thrilled and honored to announce that the Dover edition of out-of-print works by Auguste Franchomme is now in the collection of the Music Department of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, where I did much of the research for its Introduction.  May it help others further the research! http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb45334257s

Je suis ravie et honoreé d’annoncer l’édition d’Auguste Franchomme est @laBnF, Paris où j’espère la recherche peut aider les autres chercheurs/euses!

View some of the other libraries that have this book in their collections here, including Juilliard, U of Chicago, Columbia, and UNC at Chapel Hill: http://www.worldcat.org/title/selected-works-for-cello-and-piano/oclc/987981607&referer=brief_results

If you’d like your own copy, it’s for sale at Dover, Amazon (worldwide), Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.

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!

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

Link

©2016 Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Louise Dubin

When I performed in Paris in September, I was thrilled that about a dozen direct descendants of Auguste Franchomme were in attendance.  One of them presented me with this 1864 medal that had belonged to Franchomme—a real treasure!  This was Franchomme’s medal commemorating his service as a founding member of the The Société des Concerts du Conservatoire under François Habeneck. Both Franchomme and Habeneck were in the group from its inception in 1828.

.medaille-front

At first I assumed it was a retirement gift, but Franchomme actually retired from the job 5 years later, on October 12, 1869, when his 2nd consecutive request for a year’s leave was turned down.  So there was probably a ceremony in 1864 at which all founding members were awarded these medals engraved individually with their names. (Unfortunately Habeneck was not among them, since he had died in 1849).

I have already written about Habeneck and the Concert Society of the Conservatoire elsewhere-

https://blogdaysofauguste.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/ams-post-franchommes-debut-solo-performance/

http://musicologynow.ams-net.org/2014/09/the-franchomme-project.html/

https://blogdaysofauguste.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/franchommes-etude-2/

Suffice it to say, this was an important orchestra in Paris, and an important job for Franchomme. In addition to performing the solo part of the William Tell Overture countless times with this group as its principal cellist,* he also played all the Beethoven Symphonies (including the Paris premiere of Beethoven’s 9th), as well as premieres of works by Mendelssohn and Berlioz, and concertos by and with Chopin, Alkan, and Kalkbrenner. The Society’s concert series also is where Franchomme has his solo debut. He performed one of his own compositions, probably a Caprice without the optional cello accompaniment, in the concert on March 29, 1829. Here is what critic François-Joseph Fétis wrote in La Revue Musicale a few days after the concert (also discussed in the notes to my album The Franchomme Project):

Un jeune homme, un enfant, M. Franchomme, est venu, ignore, jouer sans pretention un solo de violoncelle, de manière à se mettre tout à coup sur la ligne des plus grands artistes. Il a dit un thême, sans aucun ornement, et toute l’assemblée fut transportée de plaisir…Trois, quatre, cinq salves d’applaudissemens ont à peine suffi pour exprimer le plaisir qu’avait éprouvé l’assemblée.

*(starting in 1846- before that time, he was 2nd cellist sitting next to his teacher, Martin Louis Pierre Norblin)

********************************************************************************Lorsque j’ai joué à Paris en Septembre, j’etais ravie de voir que environ une douzaine de descendants directs d’Auguste Franchomme étaient présents. Un d’eux m’a présenté cette médaille datant de 1864, qui avait appartenue à Franchomme—un vrai trésor!

Voici l’information que j’ai apprise à propos de la médaille: ce fut la médaille de Franchomme commémorant son service comme membre fondateur de La Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. Il était avec l’orchestre depuis son commencement par François Habeneck en 1828.

La médaille est datée 1864; 5 ans avant la retraite de Franchomme, le 12 Octobre 1869, quand sa 2ème demande de prolongation d’activité a été rejetée. Donc, une ceremonie a probablement eu lieu en 1864, au cours de laquelle tous les membres fondateurs ont reçus ces médailles gravées individuellement avec leurs noms. (Habeneck ne figurait pas parmi eux, puisqu’il était malheureusement décédé en 1849).

J’ai déjà écrit à propos de Habeneck et la Société dans les postes mentionné ci-dessus. Bref, ce fut un orchestre important à Paris, et un boulot important pour Franchomme. En plus de jouer la partie solo de l’Ouverture de Guillaume Tell d’innombrables fois avec ce groupe comme violoncelliste solo*, il a joué toutes les symphonies de Beethoven (y compris la Première a Paris de la 9ème de Beethoven), aussi bien que les Premières des œuvres de Mendelssohn et Berlioz, et les concertos par et avec Chopin, Alkan et Kalkbrenner. Dans l’un des premiers concerts de la Société, Franchomme a été présenté à Paris comme soliste lui-même, jouant l’une de ses propres compositions, probablement un Caprice, dans le concert le 29 Mars, 1829.  Voici ce qu’a écrit le critique François-Joseph Fétis dans La Revue Musicale quelques jours après le concert (aussi dans mes notes de l’album The Franchomme Project):
“Un jeune homme, un enfant, M. Franchomme, est venu, ignore, jouer sans pretention un solo de violoncelle, de manière à se mettre tout à coup sur la ligne des plus grands artistes. Il a dit un thême, sans aucun ornement, et toute l’assemblée fut transportée de plaisir…Trois, quatre, cinq salves d’applaudissemens ont à peine suffi pour exprimer le plaisir qu’avait éprouvé l’assemblée.”

*(à partir de 1846- avant ce temps, il était 2ème violoncelle, à côté de son prof, Martin Louis Pierre Norblin.)

Look Ma, no endpin! Franchomme versus Servais

©2015 Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Louise Dubin

In the engraving of the Alard-Franchomme Quartet at the head of this blog, we can see that Franchomme is playing his Duport Strad (more info about it in my earlier post) using a basically modern bow grip (just a bit higher on the stick) and NO endpin. He held the cello off the floor with his calves, which given the difficulty of his compositions is a remarkable thing.  According his late descendant, M. Laurent Pénicaud, Franchomme refused to use an endpin because he thought it made the cello sound unnatural.  He also refused to let his students at the Conservatoire use them, even as they were becoming widely adapted elsewhere due to the influence of the Belgian cellist Servais.  I’ve included a never-published photo (from the collection of his descendants) of an elder Franchomme sitting with his endpin-less cello in the forthcoming Dover Selected Works for Cello and Piano by Auguste Franchomme.

Servais was a large man with a large tone who played a large 1701 Strad with its own fascinating history. And apparently, Servais was a man who liked to eat.  Some have theorized that for Servais, the endpin may have become a real necessity for him to navigate the cello around his rotund belly! And, it may have enabled Servais to come across as more outgoing performer. Contemporary music critic Henri Blanchard, in his desire to differentiate Franchomme from Servais, called Franchomme elegantly precise but cold, and Servais passionate but out of tune:

Franchomme can be called the king of the French school of cello playing….he plays the cello in a manner that is elegant, easy, clean, but without inspiration or passion. His style is pure, but cold…[in contrast] Servais, head of the Belgian school… has a generous manner; he sings with expression on his instrument, but his intonation is not very accurate, a pretty common fault of cellists. Franchomme peut passer a juste titre pour le chef, pour le roi de l’ecole francais…[il] joue de violoncelle d’une maniere elegante, facile, nette, mais sans inspiration, sans passion. Son style est pur, mais froid…. Servais, chef de l’ecole belge avec Batta… il ya a de l’ampleur dans sa maniere; il chante avec expression sur son instrument, mais son intonation n’est pas tres sure, defaut assez ordinaire aux violoncellistes.”

Revue et Gazette Musicale, 1842

Probably out of respect for Franchomme’s opinion, endpins were not used at the Paris Conservatoire until 1884. It is probably no coincidence that 1884 happens to be the year when Franchomme died, and his student Jules Delsart took over the cello class there. (Delsart is most remembered today for his cello transcription of Franck’s violin sonata in A major). Even after the endpin became officially accepted at the Conservatoire, other illustrious cellists in the late 1800s refused to play with one, including Piatti and Grutzmacher.

Oct. 9: Franchomme Project CD Worldwide Release, + NY Concert Added!

Today, The Franchomme Project album (Delos Label) became available worldwide, through Naxos distributors.  You can also buy @ http://www.louise-dubin.com, where your purchase goes directly to the artists, and includes a bonus cello duo not on the CD.  (We ship everywhere, and also have a limited-edition T-shirt available!).  Franchomme Hi Rez artwork

In early 2016, Dover Publications will release a volume of Franchomme’s cello-piano compositions  with my introduction.  Included in the score are several pieces also on the album–including his Nocturnes Op. 15, Caprice sur Preciosa, and Chopin arrangements– and other facsimiles of his first publications (which include Franchomme’s fascinating fingerings!)

Our two September concerts were both Time Out NY Critic’s Picks, and now we’ve added a date! Please see http://www.louise-dubin.com/schedule for info about our 10/18 gig at Mezzrow in the West Village (we’re an opener for Bucky Pizzarelli!)