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Richard Strauss, Sonata Op.6 for Violoncello and Piano


Much of the transcribed literature for all the musical instruments was created by instrumentalists. Transcriptions are another way for performers to express their creativity. Through transcriptions, performers have traditionally expanded their repertoire and expressed their technical ability. The practice of using old materials has been part of the musical life since the middle ages.

Especially nowadays, when historically informed performances are so popular it is important to emphasize that transcriptions are an authentic and creative practice.

Richard Strauss composed the Sonata for Violoncello and Piano Op.6 in 1882-1883 while attending the University of Munich, "to read Philosophy, aesthetics and the history of art.”

Although Strauss was just eighteen years old, this piece belongs to the same period as the Violin Concerto Op.8, the Serenade for Thirteen Wind Instruments Op.7 and the Suite in B flat Op.4.

The piece was dedicated to Czech cellist Hanus (Hans) Wihan who gave the first performance in 1883. (Later, Dvorak dedicated his cello concerto to him as well). The second performance was in Dresden by Ferdinand Boekmann, principal cellist of the opera orchestra and Richard Strauss on piano. Strauss moved to Berlin in December 1883 and the Cello Sonata was performed there as well.

Looking at the Cello Sonata Op. 6 we see an accomplished work, in a quite traditional idiom. R.Larry Todd in his essay Strauss before Liszt and Wagner writes about Strauss's training as a composer: the first decade (1870-1880) contains about one hundred works with references to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and occasionally Schumann and Mendelssohn. Todd also mentions that:" between 1877 and 1880 young Strauss undertook a systematic course in counterpoint with Friederich Wilhelm Meyer. This might account for what Norman del Mar calls:" an ingenious four part fugue" at the end of the development of the first movement of the sonata. William S. Newman says:" The eclectic style this time was that of his newest favorite, Brahms".

Del Mar says:"… In the latter the influence of Mendelssohn is still strongly marked."

One way or another it confirms that until the age of sixteen due to his father's influence, Strauss was only exposed to classical music.

After his successful double bass recital in Berlin, in 1900, Serge Koussevitzky was invited to Dusseldorf, to play Bach's Phoebus and Pan, under the baton of Richard Strauss."

The Berlin recital was a turning point in Koussevitzky's solo double bass career. "Having played through everything that was available, he was obliged to create a literature himself. In 1900 he set to work and transpose music for his instrument.”

Arthur Lourie gives a list of transcriptions that Koussevitzky has written in 1900: among those pieces was the Sonata Op.6 by Richard Strauss.

Nowadays there are two commercial editions of the cello sonata by Richard Strauss. (International Music Company and Universal Edition).

Here is a link for the full transcription

There are also several recordings available on cello and my recording on the double bass in

Mostly Transcriptions Vol. II

I have tried to revive a work of musical significance that evidently was part of the double bass solo repertoire and somehow has disappeared. My hope is that this recording and transcription will help in making the Strauss Sonata Op.6 an important piece in the repertoire of the double bass.

A full article about the transcription will follow soon. in the meantime you are welcome to a free download the double bass part.

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Illustration:  Inbal Nissim, Photos:  Pazit Dank

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