On July 20, I will be releasing my first studio album called Classical Sonatas for Two Cellos, Volume 1. The album includes 7 sonatas by Jean-Baptiste Bréval and 1 sonata by Bernhard Romberg. I'm dedicating this album to my students, who meticulously study these works. My hope is that this studio album will be enjoyed by all who hear this beautiful music, not just cello students. You may pre-order the album at this link: https://yuriyleonovich.com/album/1639423/classical-sonatas-for-two-cellos-volume-1 Once it is released, the album will be available on Spotify, Amazon Music, iTunes, and other popular streaming services.
The release of this album coincides with the project I am currently working on with long-time friend Michele Galvagno (owner of Artistic Score Engraving). This project includes the publication of Bréval's 18 sonatas for 2 cellos (Opp. 12, 28, and 40) in a critical edition with a fingered and bowed cello 1 part. As an extension of this project, I recorded a studio album where Bréval's 6 Cello Sonatas, Op. 40, Romberg's Cello Sonata, Op. 43, No. 1 are world premiere recordings in their original form. The edition of Bréval's Op. 40 may be purchased here and Op. 28 here.
Bréval: Six Sonatas, Op. 40
This set of six sonatas is subtitled "non difficiles pour le violoncelle, avec Accompagnement d’une Basse." As we can see, these sonatas are meant for students. The "bass" accompaniment is meant for a second cello, perhaps the teacher. In his own Traité du violoncelle, Bréval states that the bass and the cello are one and the same. All of Bréval's sonatas on this album are in 2 movements. The first movements are all marked "Allegro" and are composed in sonata form. The second movements of these sonatas vary from five-part rondos (Op. 40, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6), to sonata form (No. 5), to theme and variations (No. 4). Bréval called the rondos of Nos. 1 and 3 "Rondo grazioso," perhaps because of their pastoral nature in 6/8 time, other rondos being in 2/4 time.
Although Sonata No. 1 is world-famous, being included in the Suzuki Method and arranged countless times for cello and piano, and other instrumentations, it was originally composed for 2 cellos. Undoubtedly, it sounds the best in this form. This work begins with a 2-bar introduction, consisting of 3 chords (a cadential figure). The introduction is not repeated with the exposition section. In the Rondo grazioso, both Schroeder and Feuillard did a bit of recomposition, which included removing one bar from each of the rondo statements, making a sixteen-bar phrase into fifteen bars.
Sonata No. 2 begins with a first movement that is far less adventurous than the Sonata No. 1; but where it lacks in interest in the first it more than makes up with a fiery Rondo. Unfortunately, this Rondo is gelded by Feuillard when he placed it as a slow movement of the so-called Concertino No. 2.
Sonata No. 3 opening movement may be taken at a faster tempo because it lacks triplets, which other sonatas in this opus have. The fourth section of the Rondo grazioso is in G minor with a Hungarian/Turkish flavor, as was popular to have in music of the Classical Era, i.e. Haydn's "Gypsy" Rondo and Mozart's A major Violin Concerto finale. The Rondo grazioso is also used by Feuillard as the finale in the so-called Concerto No. 1.
Sonata No. 4 contains an Aria with variations for its finale. Although variation movements usually contained more than two variations on a theme, more commonly four, seven or twelve, having two variations in a student sonata helps the aspiring cellist to become familiar with the form.
Sonata No. 5 is best known in Feuillard's arrangement as Concertino No. 3, which was popularized by the seven-year-old Yo-Yo Ma in his performance for John F. Kennedy in 1962. The finale is a nostalgic minuet, with an abrupt C major modulation in the development section.
Sonata No. 6 begins with a martial first movement, so far the most rhythmically interesting opening movement in the set. It was used by Feuillard for his so-called Concerto No. 2, and is best known in that form. The finale is another brisk Rondo, closely related to the one from Sonata No. 2.
Bréval: Sonata, Op. 28, No. 1
Bréval's Six Sonatas, Op. 28 are more advanced than Op. 40. The majority of those sonatas are composed in tenor clef, although the range does not go above the A harmonic. Bréval explores more advanced bow techniques as well. The first sonata is this set is a bright and happy D major. The opening movement begins with a stately fanfare. The Rondo is best known in Feuillard's arrangement under the title Concerto No.2 in the Suzuki Method. However, unlike the arrangement, this movement does not use the thumb position.
Romberg: Sonata Op. 43, No. 1
Romberg was a great virtuoso of Beethoven's and Paganini's generation. He earned the title of "Paganini of the Cello." His ten cello concertos make it obvious that he deserved this title. Arguably, Romberg's concertos are on par with Beethoven's piano concertos, being far from student concertos. We can thank Schroeder and Gruetzmacher for maiming these great works, making them into "student concertos."
Romberg did write many works dedicated to students. His Three Sonatas, Op. 43 have withstood the test of time and are still being taught around the world today. Unfortunately, the 2 editions that are typically used, by Gruetzmacher and by Jansen, are recomposed and highly edited. Like the Bréval sonatas, Romberg's Op. 43 is also for 2 cellos. Since these sonatas are part of my teaching curriculum, I wanted to offer my students a studio recording that they can have at their fingertips. The current album includes the first sonata in the set. I hope to record the other two for Volume 2. I also recently released Urtext editions of Romberg's Op. 43 and Op. 38.