Critical Notes Series: Breval's Cello Sonata in G major

Breval-Alexanian - Cello Sonata in G major, Op. 12, No. 5 (Arranged for Cello and Piano)

The late 1800s saw curiosity in Baroque and Classical composers. Between Friedrich Grützmacher (1832– 1903) and Alfredo Piatti (1822–1901), much of the ancient cello and viola da gamba music had been excavated and repurposed for contemporary audiences. Piatti’s approach is conservative and more “authentic.” Grützmacher’s approach is innovative, sometimes containing too much spice and creativity. As this curiosity continued into the 1900s, string players and pianists repurposed more repertoire with new piano parts for accompanied solo sonatas. Thanks to these efforts, Jean Baptiste Bréval (1753–1823) was one of the composers who came into the standard cello repertoire.

Carl Schröder (1848–1935) wrote a piano part for Bréval’s Op. 40 sonatas, replacing the original “cello 2” part. This arrangement was first published in 1879 by Johann André, the original publisher of Op. 40.

The next sonata by Bréval to be furnished with a piano part was the G-major Sonata, Op. 12 No. 5, created by Alfred Moffat (1863–1950), and published by Simrock in 1904. This version has stood the test of time, still being performed and recorded regularly. Of all the piano versions created in the early 1900s, Moffat’s was the most conservative with the harmonies and the cello part.

In our current edition, we would like to present the piano version of the G-major Sonata by Diran Alexanian (1881–1954), first published by Ricordi in 1918. This version takes many ideas, such as the cello cadenzas, harmonies, and piano figurations from Moffat but aims to make the piano part an equal partner to the cello. The most notable alteration to the cello part is the removal of the cello transition to the last rondo statement in the finale. Alexanian did not include fingerings in the cello part. There are some bowings. While this version of the Sonata did not have the lasting success as the Moffat version, it found champions in Maurice Eisenberg (1900–72) and Raya Garbousova (1909–97).

Our edition of Alexanian’s version is a new engraving with corrections of obvious errors and inconsistencies between the cello part and the piano score. Any deviations from the original have been marked in brackets or described in the Critical Notes at the end of this volume.

Alexanian’s was not the last version published with a piano part. Only 3 years after Alexanian, in 1921,Ricordi published a version by Joseph Salmon (1864–1943). Salmon’s cello part added fingerings and restored the 5 bars of the finale while cutting 2 bars in the first movement development. The piano part is radically different, more harpsichord-like. The Alexanian and Salmon versions were printed concurrently for some time.​ Ernst Cahnbley (1875–1936), published by Schott in 1921, re-composed the cello part almost like Grützmacher’s style, with a piano part to match. Gaspar Cassadó (1897–1966), published by the International Music Company in 1956, flipped the voicing of the cello and piano occasionally, but for the most part, used ideas from Moffat and Alexanian, with an interesting interpolation of Eisenberg’s natural harmonic idea near the end of the finale. More authentic, transparent piano parts were created by Edwin Koch (1928–2009) and Bernhard Weigart, published by Schott in 1966, and by Fedor Amosov, released by the Centaur label in 2012.

We thank the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections for providing a copy of the Alexanian source.

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