Critical Notes Series: Lalo's Cello Sonata

Introducing Lalo's Cello Sonata Urtext edition

Édouard Lalo (1823-1892) was a French composer who is best known for his Symphonie Espagnole for violin and orchestra as well as his Cello Concerto. However, he also composed beautiful chamber works such as sonatas for cello and for violin, piano trios, and string quartets that are often overlooked. Like in other composers from Lalo's generation, we can hear an influence of German composers such as Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Wagner, as well as the French-Polish Chopin. We can also hear a distinctly French sound in Lalo's music, the turn of a phrase, the use of harmony. 

Lalo composed his Cello Sonata in 1856, but it was not published until 1875 by the French publishing firm operated by Georges Hartmann. This firm was acquired by Heugel in 1891, and all subsequent reprints were made by Heugel. Lalo dedicated his three-movement Cello sonata to a fellow composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein. The outer movements of the Cello Sonata are in A minor, both in sonata form. The ternary slow movement is in F major with a D minor/major middle section. 

Harmonically unsettled, the first movement begins with a stately introduction in D minor, then moving to C minor, and finally landing on E dominant, preparing the music for the real tonality. Much of the first movement is moody, similar to the composition style and piano writing of Brahms. The second theme is sunny, very likely inspired by Mendelssohn's Song without Words Op. 19, No. 1. Surely, Lalo had Mendelssohn's Cello Sonata No. 2 slow movement in mind when he was composing his own slow movement. Lalo's finale is a stormy tarantella, probably inspired by Chopin's Cello Sonata finale. Alkan's Cello Sonata, composed the same year as Lalo's Sonata, also has a fiery Italian dance for its finale. Perhaps the two composers influenced each other. In turn, Lalo's finale seems to have influenced the first sonata finale by Saint-Saens. There are echoes of Schumann's Fantasie, Op. 17 in bar 41 of Lalo's Sonata finale.

Some cellists prefer to play several passages of Lalo's Sonata up the octave, saying that these passages sound too low. This phenomenon can be observed in a recording by Maurice Gendron, who also tampered with the text of Chopin's Cello Sonata. We believe that Lalo's text should be left as is with the same respect a cellist would have for Beethoven, Chopin, and Rachmaninov's text. 

Our new edition is based on the first edition published by Georges Hartmann in 1875. Differences in slurring, dynamics, and articulation between the score and cello part have been resolved. When the slurring differs in the cello part and the score, the score slurring is placed below and the part slurring above. Editorial marks are placed in brackets or denoted by dashed slurs and hairpins. Missing clef changes have been inserted without comment. The lowest note in bar 118 of the first movement has been changed from a G to an F to match the octave passage. In the finale, bar 120, RH, the seventh note should be a G, not an F#, to match the pattern 2 bars later. 

Lalo's original piano pedaling, including the "con sord." (una corda) has been retained.

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