Hommage to Gaspar Cassadó

Gaspar Cassadó has been my favorite cellist-composer for half of my life now. His music provides variety and imagination. His arrangements are especially well-crafted. As someone who arranges music almost daily, I look up to Cassadó for inspiration. Although the majority of our repertoire is different, our taste in music is similar. Cassadó is one person I wish I could spend a week with (not just a day) talking about music.

Most of us play the music we love. Likewise, we arrange music we love, at least the music we arrange for ourselves to play. When I look at Cassadó's list of arrangements, I see some of my all-time favorite works: C.P.E. Bach's A-major Cello Concerto, Tchaikovsky's 18 Piano Pieces, Chopin's "Aeolian Harp" Etude, Saint-Saëns's Bourree for Left Hand, Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony slow movement, Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. Some of Cassadó's works are not readily available, like the ones that only exist in manuscript form. Because I love the works in his catalog so much, I started making my own arrangements of these pieces as an hommage to my favorite cellist-composer. I have never seen his arrangements of the Saint-Saens Bourree or Tchaikovsky's Fifth, but I know how I would like to interpret them. Last year, I made an arrangement of the Saint-Saëns for cello solo (available here). I'm currently working on an arrangement of Tchaikovsky Fifth slow movement for cello and piano. As for Der Rosenkavalier, that's a future project.

Something I've found interesting is Cassadó's choice of F major for his arrangements of C.P.E. Bach's Concerto, Chopin's "Aeolian Harp" Etude, Mozart's Piano Four-hands Sonata, and of course J.S. Bach's Fourth Suite. Cassadó definitely changed keys of other works he arranged (something I'm reluctant to do), but it's curious why he chose F major for these four works. C.P.E. Bach works perfectly in the original key of A major. Other's have transposed parts of it up an octave, but I'm partial to the original key and octave. Chopin is not super idiomatic in F major (original key is A-flat). I think I would prefer the "Aeolian Harp" in G or even C major. Mozart works really well in F major (original key B-flat). I admire the authentic approach that Cassadó took in this four-hand sonata.

Of the four pieces transposed into F major, we can hear Cassadó's own recording of Bach's E-flat Suite. No doubt, it's much brighter than the original E-flat major. Upon listening to Cassadó's recording, we note that he avails himself of the open A string every chance he gets. Perhaps this is a reaction to the E-flat Suite being such a monster to play, hardly ever using open strings in the original key. Bach's Suites 1-5 only go up to the written G in fourth position. By transposing the E-flat Suite to F, a handful of A harmonics become available to Cassadó. But he plays each one solidly with vibrato. As a gift to my readers I would like to include here my own version of Bach's E-flat Suite transposed to F, as an hommage to Cassadó. This edition is largely based on my Bach Suites Edition. I entered just a handful of notes that Cassadó plays on his recording. The slurring in my edition is still according to Kellner's manuscript, as are dynamics. Thank you for supporting my work.

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