Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

School of Music


Grützmacher's Editions of Beethoven's Cello Sonatas - George Kennaway

Whereas Mendelssohn’s cello sonatas appeared almost simultaneously in 3 different editions in 1878, with a fourth published some 25 years later, Beethoven’s sonatas were edited far less often in the 19th century. Grützmacher edited the Beethoven cello sonatas twice, both times for Peters: first c.1868 (plate no 4901) and later c.1894 (plate no. 7984). Apart from Grützmacher’s two versions, the only other annotated edition was that by Carl Hüllweck for Breitkopf (1891). This reflects the greater popularity of Mendelssohn’s sonatas at this time. In 1889 Henry Finck pronounced the Chopin cello sonata to be superior to many of those by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Rubinstein, and Brahms (‘Reviews. Chopin by Henry T. Finck’, MW, 69 (1889), p.434), and even in 1902 Henry Matthews, the translator of Schroeder’s Cellist’s Handbook claimed that Mendelssohn’s cello sonatas were superior to Beethoven’s (Henry J. Matthews, The Violin Music of Beethoven (London: The Strad Office, 1902), p. 93). When in 1867 Alfredo Piatti performed a complete Beethoven cycle in London as part of as series of recitals given by Charles Hallé, the concerts received virtually no critical attention. The presence of the cello sonatas was only noticed by one reviewer, who, while praising the performance of op. 102 no. 2, merely alluded to the fact the other sonatas had also been played earlier in the series (Musical World, 45 (1867), p. 414). Piatti’s earliest performances in London of op. 69 with Hallé, in the late 1840s, were reviewed primarily as piano works, for which Piatti was on one occasion simply described as Hallé’s ‘helpmate’ [MW, 24 (1849), p. 792]. Piatti was unusual among later 19th-century cellists in that he regularly performed all Beethoven’s works for the cello, so much so that in the 1880s he received two awards for his services to Beethoven (A. L. Barzano, Signor Piatti – Cellist Komponist Avangardist (Kronberg: Kronberg Academy Verlag, 2001), p. 198). So when Grützmacher first edited the sonatas in the 1860s they were far from canonic works, and their position 30 years later at the time of his second edition was not much stronger. Only in the 1890s does any cellist suggest that Beethoven’s sonatas are central to the repertoire: 

This sonata by Beethoven, with the motto: “Inter Lacrimas et Luctum” (’Twixt tears and pain) is the best and most beautiful that the literature of the violoncello can boast of. It is so thoroughly suited to the character of the instrument that [it enables] the performer to display his artistic capabilities in every direction. The genuine manly character which speaks in the principal theme shows the nobility which distinguished Beethoven from all other composers. Whoever can play this sonata properly deserves the reputation of being a good violoncellist. [Josef Werner, Die Kunst der Bogenführung The Art of Bowing. Supplement No. VII to the Author’s Violoncello-method (Heilbronn: C. F. Schmidt, 1894), p. 47; the ‘Latin motto’, supposedly found in a lost autograph MS, originates in Thayer’s biography of Beethoven, and is based on Thayer’s misreading of an earlier source].

Grützmacher's two editions agree very closely in fingering, so much so that the few trivial differences are almost certainly misprints. Explicit gliss. markings, so common in Grützmacher’s other editions and arrangements, are rare here, but there are a few very striking examples: see in particular the conclusion of the 2nd movement of op. 5 no. 2 , and the 1st movement of op. 69, page 2 lines 2 and 3

The most obvious differences between the two Grützmacher editions concern the numerous dynamic and expressive nuances included in the first but absent from the second. Comparison of almost any page bears this out, such as the opening of op. 5 no. 1 in the 1st  and 2nd versions. In general, Grützmacher’s 2nd edition is much closer to Hüllweck’s, so much so that it may even have been revised by someone else altogether. His 1st edition shares some features with David’s violin transcription  of these works, especially patterns of arpeggiated bowing and some expressive fingerings. In terms of Grützmacher's overall output of edited texts, these Beethoven sonata editions are untypically restrained. This may be a reflection of their relative lack of continuously flowing melody (as opposed, for example, to Mendelssohn's Cello Sonata in B♭) as much as of the central canonic status of the composer.