Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

School of Music


Baroque String Music in the 19th Century

The 1800s can be seen as the time when the idea of a repertory of classics in the concert hall and the opera house took shape. For orchestral and chamber concerts (the latter typically including solo items) this was based above all on the Viennese classics – Haydn, Mozart and especially Beethoven, to which were gradually added the works of those more recent composers whose appeal was strong and lasting – Weber, Spohr, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Chopin. But there was also a growing interest in the revival of earlier, pre-1750 music. There had been examples in the eighteenth century of older music continuing in performance – Purcell and Handel in England, Gottfried van Swieten’s performances of baroque music in Vienna, and, just before the turn of the century, violinists’ access to forgotten repertoire received a fillip with J. B. Cartier’s 1798 Paris publication L’Art du Violon. This reproduced a large number of French, Italian and German music for solo violin, mostly dating from the early eighteenth century, and including the first publications of Tartini’s “Devil’s Trill” sonata, and of the fugue from the unaccompanied C major Sonata of J. S. Bach (BWV 1005). A complete edition of Bach’s Sei Solo (BWV 1001-6) followed in 1802 (Schott [?] No 169).

Further landmarks in the resurrection of forgotten music from the past took place in the 1820s and 1830s; Mendelssohn’s centenary revival of the St. Matthew Passion in Berlin in 1829, and the ‘Historical’ concerts promoted in Paris by successive librarians at the Conservatoire, Alexandre Choron (1771-1834) and François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871).

It was the works of J. S. Bach, studied and admired by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin and Liszt, that led the revival of baroque music, and he was the first composer honoured with a scholarly complete edition (begun 1851) in an impressive series initiated by the Leipzig publisher, Breitkopf und Härtel. Subsequent complete Breitkopf editions of pre-classical masters were of Handel, Palestrina, Schütz and Lassus (all begun before 1900, - the Lassus series was never completed). Other publishers took on Purcell, Sweelinck and Rameau and Corelli. Friedrich Chrysander (1826-1901), editor-in-chief of the Handel project, began in 1869 a different sort of collected edition with his Denmäler der Tonkunst, a survey of a representative sample of music from a particular area or period. By the end of the century, this had led to the founding of monumental series devoted to the musical heritages of Germany (Chrysander was involved with this, alongside Spitta, Brahms and Joachim) and Austria.

These publications all endeavoured to follow original sources and to present an accurate reproduction of them, without additions. Though immensely valuable to scholars, the large, expensive volumes, available by subscription, would probably have seemed daunting to the practising musician, unwilling or too hard-pressed to wish to copy parts and provide realisations of figured basses. Alongside the scholarly editions, then, appeared publications of early music aimed at the performing musician and the student. For violinists, these took the form of anthologies or series of solo sonatas with basso continuo, provided with pianoforte accompaniments realised from the figured bass, and bowings and fingerings. The aim was to render the study and performance of these unfamiliar sonatas less of a voyage into the unknown. Important examples of such collections are the composer, conductor and violinist Eduard Deldevez’s Pièces diverses (1858), Delphin Alard’s Les Maîtres Classiques du Violon (an ongoing series, begun in 1861 and continuing for more than two decades), and Ferdinand David’s Hohe Schule der Violinspiels (1867).

Contents of annotated anthologies

The Deldevez collection contains 26 items – complete sonatas and separate movements - extending in date from Corelli to Viotti, and including music by Italian, French and German composers. Alard’s larger series, of eventually more than 50 works, covers a wider range, from Corelli up to nearly contemporary composers, such as Kreutzer, Baillot and Beethoven. David’s collection has twenty items, most from the early and mid eighteenth century, but extending back to include a Biber sonata, and ending with the concerto movements from Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Serenade, K 250. These three pioneering publications were followed by collections edited by Henry Holmes (London, Augener, 1879), Gustav Jensen (Classische Violin Musik: London, Augener, issued between 1889 and 1895, the year of Jensen’s death) and Alfred Moffat (Meister-Schule der alten Zeit: Berlin, Simrock/London, Lengnick, 1899). David also edited an easier collection, Vorstudien zur hohen Schule des Violinspiels, (Leipzig, Breitkopf und Härtel 1872-3) comprising thirteen sonatas and suites – the shorter Corelli sonatas (Op 5 nos. 7-11), and works by Leclair and Aubert. And in 1888 (London, Novello) Arnold Dolmetsch edited a complete annotated set of Corelli’s Op. 5.


Of the 26 items in Deldevez's anthology, 18 are also found in Cartier. However, it is clear that Cartier is not his only source, even for those pieces that are common to the two collections. Cartier often includes just a single movement from a sonata. Deldevez also doesn't always print complete works; he seems to be concerned to provide a suitable item for a recital or a mixed concert and, by the conventions of his time, an extended four-movement baroque sonata might have seemed like too much at a stretch in an unfamiliar style. For instance, he omits the last two movements of the Corelli Sonata Op 5 No 1, and places the third (slow) movement before the fugal allegro that should precede it. In a number of cases, however, Deldevez includes several movements of a sonata where Cartier only prints one (his No 10, Locatelli's Op 6 No 5, consists of an Adagio and an Allegro, whereas Cartier just includes the Adagio (No 34). This argues that Deldevez had access to the original editions.

Deldevez published his collection in two volumes, the first with the violin part, plus the bassline in smaller type, the second gives the violin part above the piano accompaniment. This accompaniment is imagivative and well written, but does take some liberties with the original music. In the Giga of Corelli's Op 5 No 7, for example, Deldevez has added two introductory bars in the piano right hand. The piano volume also contain an extended introduction covering matters of interpretation, including performance of the notated ornaments. In the violin part he has left many decisions regarding fingering to the performer, but has added bowings and many interesting marks of expression.

Alard, too, includes some items from Cartier. Remarkably, however, only three works (Corelli Op 5 No 1, Leclair's "Tombeau" Sonata, and a sonata by Senaillé) are also included in Deldevez.

David had access to the King of Saxony’s library, [now housed as part of the? In Berlin?]. Some items in the Hohe Schule come from printed sources (Biber, Nardini, and probably Corelli, Vivaldi, Händel, Tartini, Mozart, and some at least of the Fünf Capricen (No 19); for others (Bach, Locatelli, Geminiani, and three anonymous sonatas) he specifies a manuscript source in the Library, and the Vitali Chaconne was also sourced from there. Of the two Bach sonatas for violin and continuo, one is the familiar work in E minor (BWV 1023), the other is a doubtful attribution – in C minor (BWV 1024). Geminiani’s authorship, too, is doubtful.


The collections of Alard, Deldevez and David seem to have been well received as publications. Deldevez's Pièces diverses were warmly greeted in London by The Athenaeum [1607 (1858: Aug. 14) p. 208]

"It is long since a book so interesting as this has come before us. It is long since we have seen the promise of a prospectus better fulfilled than by M. Deldevez, who here proves himself a conscientious student of the old masters, taken in hand."

The reviewer does not find every item in the collection admirable, but shows a refined appreciation of the qualities of early eighteenth-century music. The concluding variations of Tartini's Sonata in F, Op 1 No 12, is "better worth taking up by any violinist in want of a solo (and essentially newer) than the Rhapsodie of the moment's frenzy, or the stale theme from 'La Traviata' dressed up with sixty-times-told double stops and arpeggii"

[quote from AMZ re David to follow]

When items were performed in public, however, the initial reaction was mixed.

"Even Handel has been ransacked for new contributions to the Monday Popular Concerts....... Herr Straus had fished out of the waters of oblivion a sonata in A major [Op 1 No 4]...... and introduced it, with a somewhat pretentious accompaniment from the pen of Herr Ferdinand David...... This sonata is not of remarkable value. Nevertheless, a greater than Herr Straus, no other than Herr Joachim, thought proper to play it also, and, because Herr Joachim played it, the majority of the audience became enthusiastic, found it delightful, and encored the last movement." [The Saturday review 25;648 (Mar. 28) p.419.]

Critics at least knew what to expect from Handel, but the "Vitali Chaconne", whose authorship remains uncertain to this day, and which was first published in David's collection, tended to puzzle its first critics who, however, had to acknowledge the great effect it had when performed by a fine violinist.

"Granted, there may be a certain monotony in the perpetual maintenance of the same key..... we, nevertheless, can see no improvement in the perpetual shifting of keys through the medium of queer progressions and forced transitions, as exemplified in this laboured composition by Vitali..... But whatever the merits of the composition, the performance of this hitherto unknown Ciaconna, by Herr Joachim..... was such as to raise the enthusiasm of the audience to so high a pitch that the whole had to be repeated from beginning to end." [Musical World 48:7 (1870; Feb. 12) p. 107]

"The composition by Vitali was a chaconne for violin alone, most ably executed by Mme. Norman-Néruda. It consisted of a number of variations upon a ground-bass, as was customary in this form of writing, and, however ingenious they were and are, it must be admitted that the shortness of the theme and its constant, alsmot unvarying, repetition, might probably have been tedious had the task of performance been consigned to less expressive players than Mme. Norman-Néruda. She made it so interesting that, had many of the audience been able to influence the rest , the whole work would have had to be repeated." [Monthly Musical Record, 9 (1879: Mar.) P. 47.

Over time, however, these baroque sonatas became an accepted part of concert programmes, particularly as solo items in series such as the Monday Popular Concerts in London.

"..... a fine Sonata, for violin with pianoforte accompaniment, by Porpora, the "patriarch of melody"..... in which Mr. Emil Sauret's refined expression and masterly techmique, more especially in the polyphonous style, were amply exemplified. [Musical Opinion 15:175 (1892: Mar. 12) p. 297]

An interesting feature of the way the music was disseminated, particularly sonatas from David’s Hohe Schule, was that violinists concentrated on particular pieces, playing them over and over again. Prosper Sainton, for instance made a speciality of the "fine Sonata by Porpora" (in G major, No. 3 in David’s collection). As well as performing it many times, he taught it to pupils at the London Royal Academy of Music, and it entered their repertoires. And when in 1890 Emil Sauret succeeded Sainton at the RAM, Sauret began to perform the same work and encourage his pupils to do so as well. Several of the ‘David’ works remained popular recital pieces well into the twentieth century – the Nardini D major Sonata, the Op 2 No 2 Vivaldi Sonata, and especially the Vitali Chaconne, first popularised by Wilma Norman-Néruda in London and by Heinrich Schradieck in Germany. These joined those few pieces, such as Corelli’s La Follia and the Tartini Devil’s Trill Sonata, which were already well known by the middle 1800s.

Editorial input – case studies

1) Corelli's "Follia" variations were edited by Delphin Alard in 1863, and by Ferdinand David in 1867. They show a fascinating contrast in editorial approach. Alard has fully fingered and bowed the violin part, and added dynamics. He has, however been entirely respectful of the original text. A comparison with the first edition (Rome 1700) shows there to be only a single bar (22 bars from the end) where Alard has altered the text's note values - he arpeggiates in semiquavers three crotchet chords in the original. Alard even retains many of the composer's bowings, whilst adding many extra slurs. By contrast, David, as well as adding fingerings and bowings, and a rather more detailed and liberal range of dynamic indications, is also ready, at any stage, to change, elaborate and recompose the source text = changing note values (in the very first bar, Corelli's crotchet is changed to a quaver followed by a rest), ornamenting whole sections (the second part of the first variation already does this), adding connecting phrases between variations (the first example joins the second and third variations), and occasionally using the Corelli text as a skeleton on which to compose music of a quite different character.

Neither editor is thinking of communicating to student, amateurs or professionl violinists anything of what we would recognise today as baroque style. Alard presents a work that can in places show a violinist's brilliant technique; unlike David, he provides metronome marks for the different sections of the work, some of them suggesting very fast tempi. At other moments, Alards carefully chosen fingerings, bowings and expression marks show the player how to create a fine effect with beautiful tone and expressive delivery. David, on the other hand, suggests a far more dramatic style of performance; an account of his edition might give Corelli's music a force and intensity not far short of that which the great nineteenth-century violinists often achieved in the Bach Chaconne.

One can imagine that for both Alard and David it would have been unthinkable to provide their students with nothing beyond the original notation of a piece such as this. Their performance suggestion are in keeping with the musical and specifically violinistic ideals of their time - fine tone production, broad legato lines, varied bowings, and in more lyrical music, the occasional, tasteful use of portamento and where possible keeping to the colour of a single string. Both violinists have shown, most persuasively how this might be achieved, and both show a serious engagement with the music's expressive potential; the fact that the two approaches are so different testifies to variety of styles a concert goer of the time might experience.

2) David's edition of the Biber C minor Sonata (No 6 in his 1681 publication) is the first item in Die Hohe Schule. One must admire his perceptiveness in choosing such a magnificent work, at that time, one imagines, completely unknown - Biber's music, apart from this piece only began to appear in print in the 1890s. Perhaps because it is the earliest music that David edited and in an unfamiliar idiom, his changes to the original source are particularly extensive; their tendency is to make the work more like an eighteenth-century sonata. In the opening section he supplies slurs, dynamics, and fingerings, as with all the works in the collection. He also adds a tempo indication, Largo, (the original has none) and alters the time signature from a crossed C to plain C (from 2/2 to 4/4). He thus alters Biber's moderate tempo into a typical eighteenth-century slow first movement. This in turn has suggested to him an alteration in rhythm. Instead of Biber's ascending chromatic crotchets (bar 6 and subsequently), David makes a sighing motif, with quaver rests and upbeats, and cross-beat slurs. And where Biber descends an octave, in bar 7, David continues up to high C, for dramatic effect.

In the following Passacaglia

[Biber – compare David with urtext Vitali – compare David with urtext and with Henri Petri’s revised edition. Corelli – compare Alard, David and urtext. (all these comparisons involve a further consideration of David’s m.s. annotations). Handel – compare Alard with urtext. A further possibility would be to compare Corelli editions by Deldevez, Alard, Holmes, Dolmetsch and Jensen.]