Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/316

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300

��VIOLONCELLO-PLAYING.

��instrument. The left hand stops an octave and a half (upper E) on the first string, necessitating the use of the thumb, which is the special cha- racteristic of the higher positions of the Violon- cello. Canavasso and Ferrari, two other Italian Cello players, appeared in Paris between 175 and 1760. There already lived in Paris a player whose name stands by tradition at the head of the French school. This was the famous Berteau, who died in 1 756. None of Berteau's compositions are known to exist, except a well- known study printed in Duport's ' Essai,' and a sonata in Breval's ' Me'thode ' ; but he is always recognised as the first of the French school of violoncello-players. Cupis, Tilliere, the two Jan- sons, and the elder Duport were among his pupils. Among the classical composers, Handel and Bach first employed the instrument in its wider range ; it is only necessary to mention the famous six solos of the latter, while well-known instances of its use by the former are the obligato parts to

  • O Liberty ' (Judas), ' What passion cannot

music raise * (St. Cecilia's Day), and ' But ! sad virgin * (L' Allegro). Pepusch's ' Alexis ' was for long a favourite. With the creation of the stringed quartet the Violoncello gained the greater prominence which is exemplified in thje chamber music of Haydn and Boccherini. The latter master was himself a solo cellist of con- siderable ability ; he played at the . Concert Spirituel in Paris in 1 768. Gluck is said to have been a cellist, but no predilection for the instru- ment appears in his works.

The true method of violoncello-playing was first worked, out by the younger Duport, and laid down in his famous ' Essai sur le Doigte du Violoncello, et sur la Conduite de 1'archet.' DUPORT, who was born in 1 749, made his de"but at the Concert Spirituel in the same year in which Boccherini performed (i 768) ; the ' Essai ' was published some years later. Before Duport much confusion had existed in fingering and bowing the instrument ; many players, it ap- pears, endeavoured to get over the difficulties of the scales by fingering the Violoncello like the Violin, i.e. stopping whole tones with successive lingers, thus throwing the hand into a false posi- tion, and losing that aplomb which is indis- pensable alike to certainty of fingering and solidity of tone. Duport, recurring to the prac- tice of the old Viola da gamba players, laid down the principle that the true fingering was by semitones, only the first and second fingers being as a rule allowed to stretch a whole tone where necessary ; and he overcame the inherent difficulties of the scales by dividing the positions into four so-called ' Fractions,' and by adopting a methodical system of shifting, the violin fin- gering being only retained in the higher ' thumb' positions, where the fingering is similar to the first position of the Violin, the thumb acting as a moveable nut. The ' Essai ' of Duport formed an epoch in violoncello-playing. Among his pupils was Frederick William, King of Prussia, to whom Mozart dedicated the three famous -quartets in F major, Bb major, and D major, in

��VIOLONCELLO-PLAYING.

which the Violoncello occupies so prominent a place; while Beethoven's two first Violoncello sonatas (op. 5) were dedicated to Duport him- self. The compliment of Voltaire to Duport, who visited him when at Geneva on a musical tour, aptly illustrates the change which was taking place in the treatment of the instrument. Monsieur,' he is reported to have said, ' vous me faites croire aux miracles,: vous savez faire d'un bcauf un rossignol ! ' In Germany Bern- hard ROMBERG and STIASTNY, contemporaries of Duport, worked upon his method, while Levas- seur, Lamare, Norblin, Platel, Baudiot and others represented the school in France. The Italians were slower in the cultivation of the Violoncello, and Burney in his Tour remarks that the Italian players retained the underhand grasp of the bow, while elsewhere the overhand grasp, founded on that of the violin, was generally adopted. Since the time of Duport, the tendency of players and composers has been to make the Violoncello more, and more a Bass Violin, i.e. to assimilate its treatment more and more closely to that of the treble instrument. The most accomplished players even perform (an octave lower in pitch) on it solo violin pieces of great difficulty, the 'Trillo del diavolo' and 'Carnaval de Venise' not excepted. Merk, Franchomme, Kummer, and Dotzauer ranked among the best bravura players of their times, but the greatest master of all the effects producible on the Violoncello was undoubtedly the late M. Servais (died 1866), under whose large and vigorous hand, says a critic, the Violoncello vibrated with the facility of a kit : the staccato in single notes, in thirds, in octaves, all over the fingerboard, even to the most acute tones, came out with irreproach- able purity; there was never a hesitation or a doubtful note. He was an innovator in every sense of the word : never, before him, had the Violoncello yielded such effects. His compositions will remain as one of the most marvellous monuments of the instrumental art of our time. 1 Servais may well be called the Paganini of the Violoncello. The English players who have left the greatest name are CROSDILL and LINDLET. Among living players the name of Signer PIATTI should be mentioned as a master in all styles, equally admirable in the severest classical music and in the brilliant technical effects which are embodied in some of his own compositions. GRDTZM ACHER, DAVIDOFF, the HAUSMANNS, and our own EDWARD HOWELL, must also be named.

At present players use thinner strings than formerly : and the use of the thumb positions is more restricted, the rule being to employ ordi- nary stopping wherever practicable. The objec- tion to the thumb positions is that the quasi open notes, being stopped sideways, are necessarily weak and unequal. For solo performance the tenor register of the Violoncello, i.e. the first and second strings, each employed in its lowest octave, is the best portion of the instrument: the ponderous notes of the lowest string are ex-

i Viilal. Instruments a Archet, torn. 1. p. 371.

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