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Mendelssohn's Cello Sonatas - George Kennaway

B flat major sonata op. 45 

D major sonata op 58 

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The four performing editions of Mendelssohn's cello sonatas form an unusual group. Three editions (by Friedrich Grützmacher, his brother Leopold, and Bernhard Cossmann) were published almost simultaneously in late 1877/early 1878. A fourth edition, by David Popper, was published by Universal c.1902. 

Friedrich Grützmacher's edition is striking for the detailed notation of portamento, especially in the sonata op. 45 (there is also a notable example of repeated portamento in the finale of op. 58, but in general this sonata affords fewer opportunities for its use). The title page carries the statement 'Nach der Tradition des Komponisten genau bezeichnet', a claim made in several other C. F. Peters publications such as David's edition of Spohr concertos. Grützmacher's connection with Mendelssohn can scarcely be at first hand, although he was closely connected both with David and with Julius Rietz, themselves having strong links to Mendelssohn, and is known to have been present as a teenager at social occasions with Mendelssohn. The extraordinarily wide range of portamenti deployed in op. 45 - conventional same-finger shifts, from a rest to the first note of a phrase, from an open string to a harmonic, in accompanying lines as well as melodies - raises many performance questions. Grützmacher is clearly exceptional in his detailed notation of portamento - in addition to many fingerings which clearly imply it, he marks 'gliss.' where otherwise there could be ambiguity. On the other hand, reviews of his own performances do not single it out for comment. This suggests either that this frequency of portamento was widespread and therefore unremarkable, or that his execution was more subtle than the notation suggests. Grützmacher's fingering is in general quite sophisticated, often using portamento to vary the repeat of a phrase, but also using a passing open string to obtain a clean change of position. His editions suggest in general that he had a refined left hand technique which enabled subtle shifting between neighbouring positions - this could suggest that his execution of portamento was similarly refined. (See Friedrich Grützmacher: an overview - George Kennaway).

Leopold Grützmacher's edition is less detailed in general, and does not specify portamento nearly as often - he does, however, indicate it in two places where Friedrich does not, in op. 45. His fingering is generally less sophisticated than Friedrich's, with several rather crude shifts. He generally retains Mendelssohn's phasing, changing it the least of all four editors, although he does break longer slurs into shorter ones, even removing them altogether and marking each note with a line. In matters of bowing (direction, or the part of the bow), both the Grützmachers give little information. Mendelssohn's articulation marks are retained by both. Unlike the Grützmachers, Cossmann, specifies the part of the bow quite often, indicating am frosch and au talon, as well as sur la touche. When he alters Mendelssohn's slurs, it is almost always for simple reasons of expediency, often 'tucking in' dotted rhythms. His 12 repeated Π bows at the end of op. 58 are highly unusual. He substitutes lines for Mendelssohn's dots in the second movement of op. 45, and distinguishes between lines and dots elsewhere. Cossmann's fingerings often imply portamento (or at least necessitate an audible shift). However, this seems to be as much a consequence of relatively old-fashioned fingering as a consciously adopted expressive device; Cossmann's technical exercises are clearly based on a rather inflexible 'block' left hand. Neither Cossmann nor Popper were particularly active as editors in general. Cossmann only edited these sonatas and the cello parts of the piano trios; Popper edited only the sonatas. His edition is clearly based on Friedrich Grützmacher's - many of the publications brought out in Universal's early years were copied from pre-existing texts. As the foremost cellist of his day, well-known in Vienna, and an Austro-Hungarian, his name would have been an attractive selling point for Universal, who were creating an entirely new catalogue with great speed. While he deletes many of Grützmacher's portamenti, he does add one in the finale of op. 58. Where he alters Grützmacher's phrasing and articulation, he generally does so by adding markings to what is already there, generally in direction of greater refinement (similarly, Popper's Hohe Schule explores a much wider range of bowing possibilities than Grützmacher's Technologie). He retains many of Grützmacher's fingerings. [G.K.]

B flat major sonata op. 45   

D major sonata op 58   

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