Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

School of Music


Friedrich Grützmacher: an overview - George Kennaway

Friedrich Grützmacher was the most prolific arranger and editor of music for the cello in the 19th century. As well as the sonatas of Boccherini, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, the concertos of Schumann and Romberg, several works by Servais, Chopin’s works for the cello, Duport’s Etudes and one concerto, he edited much 18th-century music including the Bach solo suites and viola da gamba sonatas, sonatas by Boccherini, a sonata by J. C. Bach, a gamba sonata and cello concerto by C. P. E. Bach, a gamba concerto by Tartini, and a cello concerto misattributed to Haydn. He arranged a considerable amount of violin music for the cello, including the complete violin sonatas of Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart, and Beethoven’s Romances. He also arranged piano works by Chopin and Schumann, and songs by Schubert and Schumann. He was an active composer, and tended to introduce elements of recomposition into much of the music which he edited, such as his notorious edition of Boccherini’s so-called concerto in B flat major, and his edition of ‘Haydn’s’ D major cello concerto Hob.VIIb:4 (for a discussion of this and other editions, see George Kennaway, ‘Haydn’s (?) Cello Concertos, 1860-1930: editions, performances, reception’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, December 2012). Even his arrangement of Schumann’s ‘Träumerei’ includes five totally recomposed bars. He published approximately 200 works in all, of which just over a quarter were original compositions (these were mostly for cello, but included a few songs and piano pieces). In the 1850s, he was equally active in both composition and editing, but he composed much less from the mid-1860s onwards. 

He was an influential teacher, but did not transmit his enthusiasm for editing and arranging to his pupils, who published far fewer annotated editions. His brother Leopold, whom he taught, was quite active in this field and significantly different in his approach, evidenced by their editions and arrangements of works by Chopin and Mendelssohn. But his other, younger, pupils tended to edit earlier teaching material (Klingenberg’s revision of Dotzauer became the standard version), include annotated selections from cello repertoire as part of their own teaching material (Werner, Brückner), or edit a small number of shorter, lighter pieces and arrangements (Fitzenhagen). 

His compositions, and re-compositions of other composers’ works, frequently rely on poorly constructed modulations which were commented on at the time:  

One is kept in a constant state of restlessness from beginning to end, being hunted through a formal surge of modulations. [The Orchestra, 5 (1865), p.150, reviewing a performance of Grützmacher’s Overture]. 

His annotations are generally highly detailed, especially concerning fingering. In many editions he indicates parts of the bow, but annotations referring to specific types of bow-stroke are less frequent. Grützmacher’s studies contain virtually no explanatory material (later revisions of his Tägliche Ubungen by Hugo Becker or Willem Welleke tend to have more text). Grützmacher appeared as a soloist until the 1880s. His own performances were, typically, not reviewed in any technical detail. He was praised for his technique, that of the left hand in particular, and his strong playing, although his tone quality was sometimes found wanting in comparison with Kummer – his teacher Drechsler had been criticised in similar terms. In 1866, in advance of his first visit to London, he was compared to Alfredo Piatti:  

Of this gentleman a private letter from a good authority says: “He is a magnificent player, and possesses a power and certainty of execution quite extraordinary. His style is much stronger and broader than Piatti’s but not so sweet and sympathetic and lovely. But he is undeniably a great artist and an accomplished musician, witness many compositions both for the orchestra and his own instrument.” [The Reader, 7 (1866), p. 452]. 

It would appear that in several respects he was influenced by Ferdinand David - Max Bruch’s piano trio op. 5 (1859) was dedicated jointly to David and Grützmacher, which may be an acknowledgment of this similarity. Overall, the performing editions by David and Grützmacher were among the most minutely detailed prepared by any 19th-century string player, and the two were almost equally prolific. In book 2 of Grützmacher’s Technologie des Violoncellspiels op. 38 there are some similarities with the more advanced techniques explored in David’s Violinschule, such as exercises in double-stopped artificial harmonics. Grützmacher produced his own Hohe Schule for the cello, which, like David’s collection of the same name, comprised works by 18th and early 19th-century composers such as Tartini, Haydn and Duport. Grützmacher’s collection was however smaller than David’s, and concentrated more on concertos than sonatas. Both edited Bach’s solo string works, and both were prepared to alter Bach’s notes in the interests of a particular musical effect or technical smoothness, although Grützmacher goes considerably further than David in this respect. David’s violin transcription of the Bach cello suites alters several arpeggio figures and introduces complex bowing, frequently phrasing across beats in a manner similar to Kreutzer and Spohr. Grützmacher does the same, but he also substantially recomposes several movements and introduces much new material in the form of chords, contrapuntal lines and other decoration. Grützmacher’s edition of the Beethoven cello sonatas and David’s violin transcription of those works share some features such as bowing in arpeggiated passagework and some expressive fingering. David treats the Bach cello suites as preparatory material for the study of the solo violin works, but Grützmacher’s edition, as stated on the title page, is explicitly intended for concert performance. He was almost certainly the first cellist to play Bach’s cello suites unaccompanied in public. In 1865 he gave the fifth suite in Dotzauer’s edition, and in 1867 he played an unspecified suite in Meiningen and Dresden. He did not do this often, however, in spite of his claim to the contrary – see his letter, below – and no other cellist appears to have done it until Casals (who used Grützmacher’s more conservative second edition). 

In one of his own compositions, the 1857 Burlesque, he experimented with techniques and musical expression more typical of the Belgian virtuoso Adrien-François Servais (1808-1866), many of whose works he edited in 1895 – elaborate up-bow staccato, a particular type of octave passagework rarely found outside Servais (apart from one passage in the Dvorak concerto), and some amusing left-hand pizzicato effects. 

Grützmacher’s annotations in his arrangements and performing editions constitute a unique source of information about his use of portamento. While he almost never expressly indicates vibrato (to date, only one example has been found, namely in his edition of Romberg’s Duos op. 9; this combines a vibrato marking with a small messa di voce) almost every one of his edited works contains at least one gliss. marking. This is in addition to fingerings such as same-finger shifts or long shifts on the same string which clearly imply portamento and need no additional instruction. Grützmacher can apply portamento to the first note of a phrase, to a double-stopped chord, between two staccato notes, to a harmonic, between notes on different strings, downwards (sometimes to an open string), to simple supporting harmony notes as well as melodic lines, and it can be used repeatedly in successive bars or repetitions of short phrases. In his arrangement of Chopin waltzes for the cello he even indicated portamento with double-stopped sixths, and in his edition of Duport’s concerto no. 4 in E minor he indicates gliss. to a double-stopped third preceded by a rest. Almost all of these techniques are to be found in his editions of Mendelssohn’s cello sonatas and the Schumann cello concerto, but isolated examples of every type occur throughout his output, whatever the historical period or style of the work in question. Many of his portamenti involve an audible slide to the destination note rather from the note of departure. This type of shift was associated especially with French players from at least the 1830s, criticised by Spohr, Hermann, Schroeder, and others, and deprecated by Davidoff, but it was widely used by cellists in early recordings.It is possible to overestimate the true length of portamenti involving string-crossing, as in some cases the effective length of the slide can be as short as a semitone, even if the overall interval between the notes is considerably greater; nonetheless, where Grützmacher indicates a portamento to a high note on a lower string the effective sliding distance is sometimes considerably greater than the simple musical interval. The most extreme example  is probably that found at the end of the first section of his arrangement of the 'Serenade' attributed to Haydn, with a slide of nearly three octaves down the D string in the second time bar:

[F. Grützmacher (ed.), Transcriptionen classische Musikstücke op. 60 no. 2, 'Serenade von J. Haydn' (Leipzig: Kahnt, 1868)]

His portamento is fundamentally vocal in character - there are evident parallels with early vocal recordings such as those by Adelina Patti, especially the small 'preparatory' slide at the beginning of a phrase. Early cello recordings, whether by Grützmacher’s pupils or other cellists, generally use considerable amounts of quite intense portamento. The only notable exception is the single surviving recording by William Whitehouse, Piatti’s most prominent British pupil, which suggests a portamento closer to Joachim’s more restrained practice (Maurice Greene, ‘Sing me to sleep’, Edward Lloyd (tenor), W. E. Whitehouse (cello), The Recorded CelloPearl, 1999; original recording 1907), so Grützmacher’s practice may well reflect a more or less widespread taste, at least in the last quarter of the 19th century. Reviews of his playing do not generally mention his portamento, excessive or otherwise, so presumably his practice was not seen as especially noteworthy. On the other hand, other editors indicate portamento much less frequently, such as the editions of the Mendelssohn sonatas by Leopold Grützmacher, Bernhard Cossmann and David Popper, or Piatti's and Schoeder's editions of Boccherini, so it could be that his execution of portamento was less obtrusive than the impression given by its concrete notation. Nonetheless, comparing Piatti’s, Schroeder’s, and Grützmacher’s editions of Boccherini’s Sonata in A major (F. Grützmacher (ed.), 6 Sonaten für Violoncell (Leipzig: Bartholf Senff, [1870]); A. Piatti (ed.), L. Boccherini Sei Sonate (Milan: Ricordi, n.d.) ; Carl Schröder (ed.), Klassische Violoncell-Musik berühmter Meister des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts (Mainz: Schott, 1911)] it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Grützmacher’s performing style differed perceptibly from that of the other two, even taking into account the vital distinction between notation and performed sound. 

The claim on the title page of his Mendelssohn edition to be ‘nach der Tradition den Komponisten’, though striking, is not beyond question. An identical claim is made for David’s editions of Spohr concertos (also published by Peters), which is clearly justified. But Grützmacher can barely have known Mendelssohn, and there is little evidence for such a thing as a performing tradition of this specific repertoire, in the sense of essential values which are carefully handed down from one generation to the next as opposed to a simple succession of performances. On the other hand, he knew David and Julius Rietz (an accomplished cellist who presumably had played the sonatas with Mendelssohn himself) and was therefore close to members of Mendelssohn’s circle. Julius Rietz invited him to Dresden in 1860, but their connection must date back to the earlier 1850s – Grützmacher’s quartet op. 15, published in 1855, is dedicated to Rietz. 

But his equally remarkable edition of the Schumann concerto possibly has a clearer claim to having the composer’s authority. Grützmacher performed chamber music several times with Clara Schumann in the years after Robert Schumann’s death and performed the cello concerto several times in the late 1860s, apparently more often than the Mendelssohn sonatas. Although Robert Bockmühl assisted Schumann in its composition (and Carl Ripfel was also involved), neither of these cellists provided any information about its performance, though some elements of their performing styles can be gleaned from Bockmühl’s other editions and from Ripfel’s few compositions (Bernhard R. Appel (ed.), Schumann Forschungen: Robert Schumann, das Violoncello und die Cellisten seiner Zeit (Mainz: Schott, 2007)). Grützmacher’s is therefore the first performing edition of this work. Given that it dates from less than a decade after the 1860 première and is prepared by a cellist who gave many of its earliest performances and performed with Clara Schumann, it carries particular significance. 
A letter of Grützmacher’s shows his attitude to the task of making a performing edition. Writing to the publisher C. F. Peters in 1884, apparently in response to Peters’ rejection of an (unspecified?) arrangement or edition, he wrote: 

I could not have a more unhappy surprise than that contained in your letter. … A work which has been done on my part with the greatest care and love you regard as a failure? … Some great masters like Schumann and Mendelssohn have never taken the time to notate all the indications and nuances necessary, down to the smallest detail. … My main purpose has been to reflect and to determine what these masters might have been thinking, and to set down all that they, themselves, could have indicated. … Regarding this activity, and relying on my long musical experiences, I feel I have more right than all the others to do this work. I have the approval of many renowned composers, but naturally, Schumann and Mendelssohn can no longer give theirs to me. … I do not fear the opinion they could have had because when one has had—as I—the opportunity to play all types of music often, there is not a doubt that he in capable of doing this kind of editing. … Schumann had no practical sense, so it is indispensible not to correct but to complete the nuances. … Who could possibly see anything in my work but a great deal of care and love, since it cannot be thought that it is done from a lack of knowledge. That would indeed be censurable. … PS My concert version of the Bach Suites, which you likewise mention, cannot also be a subject of reproach since, in editing them, I not only tried to follow the same intentions of which I have just spoken but I succeeded at it. I have reaped much success in presenting this edition in concert, something that would have been impossible with the bare original in its primitive state.  [English translation from Dimitry Markevitch, Cello Story (Princeton, New Jersey: Summy-Birchard Music, 1984), pp. 62-63. All ellipses as in Markevitch’s version. A facsimile of this letter is given in Ludolf Lützen, Die violoncell-Transkriptionen Friedrich Grützmachers, Regensburg: Gustav Bosse Verlag, 1974, appendix 1, pp.[264-68].] 

Grützmacher’s detailed annotations were not to every taste, and were seen as limiting the performer’s freedom by an Athenaeum reviewer of a performance by Piatti of Grützmacher's arrangement of a gamba sonata attributed to Handel  in 1876: 

Handel’s sonata, written for the viol da gamba and cembalo originally, was arranged for piano and violoncello by Herr Grützmacher, a famous violoncellist. The writer of the analytical book states that “none of the marks of expression indicated by Herr Grützmacher is reproduced in this cursory analysis, as none of them is Handel’s own. It is curious that such matters cannot be left to the judgment, taste, and feeling of the executive artists themselves, instead of being dictated, as is too much the fashion now-a-days, by special individuals.” We quite agree with the analyst; the Athenaeum has always contended for the right of artists to have a free and independent interpretation, just as the conductor has the privilege of reading a score, and having it executed according to his views of a composer’s intentions. […] A truly great pianist must have an original conception of a sonata or a concerto, and have the will to carry out the reading. […] there is no more value in a traditional theory for the execution of compositions for the pianoforte than for the reading of Shakespeare. The creative faculty should exist in the executant as well as in the actor. [Anon., ‘Concerts’, Athenaeum, 2520, February 12th 1876, p. 240]. 

His other annotations, while less informative than his fingering choices, still contain much information. He often indicates several bows to be used where the original may have one long slur, sometimes removing the slur altogether and using separate bows. He often indicates accentuation and articulation in great detail, using dots, lines, slurs and accents in various combinations. In a few of his studies and edited pieces he indicates spiccato, mostly in passages of repeated 32nd-notes, but in general this type of bowing is not especially prominent, even in his editions of virtuoso compositions. His third cello concerto op. 46 contains a passage using paired spiccato 16th-notes which would appear to be more like a jété or ricochet – a bowing termed tremolo by David and Jockisch  (David, Violinschule, pt. 2, p. 38.; Reinhold Jockisch, Katechismus der Violine und des Violinspiels (Leipzig: J. J. Weber, 1900), p. 125). The same work contains an ossia passage featuring an up-bow staccato consisting of twenty-two semiquavers, but this type of bowing is highly unusual in his work. It may well be that Grützmacher shared Romberg’s view that spiccato was not appropriate for serious works, although something that cellists ought to be able to do nonetheless. His predecessor in Dresden, Friedrich Kummer, ignored spiccato entirely in his 1839 Violoncello Schule – this was added to later revisions, in a manner similar to the revision of Spohr’s Violinschule by Henry Holmes. Romberg openly disapproved of the technique but gave some small exercises for its study. Apart from the Servais-like up-bow staccato noted above, this technique is also rarely used in his overall output. This is not to say, however, that Grützmacher’s bowing is without interest; many passages in his editions of the Mendelssohn and Beethoven sonatas suggest a more sophisticated use of the bow than appears in the work of other editors, with a seemingly awkward bowing being adopted in order to achieve a more musical result in the ensuing bars. Grützmacher also takes pains to provide many additional dynamic nuances (or entire dynamic schemes where there are none in the original), in a similar manner to those added to Haydn’s piano trio violin parts by David. His con grandezza marking is particularly characteristic. Some of these dynamic markings undoubtedly reflect Grützmacher’s personal preferences, but others, especially hairpin crescendos towards sf markings, probably make a general practice explicit.