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Born in Barcelona in , he was discovered at the age of nine by a young Catalan cellist just starting out on his career, the year-old Pablo Casals, and Gaspar was accepted to study with him in Paris on a scholarship from his native city.
During his long studies with Casals in Paris, he absorbed the many aesthetic crosswinds blowing through the French capital, coming to admire the spiky modernism of Stravinsky, the impressionism of Ravel, and the Spanish nationalist sentiments of Manuel Da Falla. Cervera suggests that the two presentations of the opening theme, one forte , the other piano , represent in turn Don Quixote and his beloved, Dulcinea.
The second movement is a sardana, the folk dance most closely associated with the Catalonian nationalist revival of the 19th century. The sardana is a round dance accompanied by a cobla wind band comprising a high-whistling flaviol wooden fipple flute , double-reed shawms and various brass instruments. The opening, played entirely in harmonics, imitates the high whistling sound of the flaviol summoning the dancers to the town square. The sardana is a dance in three parts, the middle section being more lyrical and in a minor key.
The frequent changes in register on the cello imitate the way that various sections of the band interact. The last movement is the one in which the spirit of the dance is most evident, with the snap of castanets imitated in sharp, abrupt rhythms, the strumming of the guitar in flamboyant arpeggio patterns, and the harmonies of Spanish folk music in the distinctive pattern of the four-note descending bass line.
Each begins with an introductory adagio leading into a sonata-form allegro and ends with a rondo finale. And he was more than a passable cellist, to boot, having been taught while still a princeling-in-short-pants by the virtuoso court cellist Jean-Pierre Duport for whom the Op. What more attractive model to take for a sonata to be performed with Duport in front of the King himself?
What Beethoven admired most in Handel was his ability to evoke an emotion, or construct an entire dramatic scene, out of the merest scrap of a motive, such as the three-note descending phrase that occurs so often in Judas Maccabaeus. Despite its mere two movements, there is nothing small-scale about this sonata. Capping off the first movement is a coda in which Beethoven lets his instrumentalists mull over what they have just played for the last time before the movement ends, grimly and grudgingly, with a stiffly Baroque tierce de Picardie in G major.
After all that heavy drama, Beethoven serves up a good-natured rondo finale with a sturdy opening refrain tune of small range that manages to thump and twinkle in turn. With a repetitive structure playfully phrased in alternating fragments of forte and piano, it drums its way into your head to become the most memorable melody of the movement.
The intervening episodes, and even the refrain theme itself are continually developed and varied—sometimes cast in the minor mode, sometimes with the instruments chasing each other in canon—as if in a sonata movement. This finale simply overflows with rhythmic vitality, due to a near-constant chatter of rapid passagework on the part of both piano and cello.
The conservative musical language of this sonata, with its profusion of regular phrase lengths and adherence to a four-movement classical layout sonata-movement, scherzo, largo and rondo shocked even some of his contemporaries. The first and second themes of the sonata-form first movement are both lyrical in inspiration. The second, in particular, seems almost sentimental, without even a touch of sarcasm. In the development section they are set against a repeated note figure that first appears as cello accompaniment to the second theme and then is more openly articulated at the end of the exposition.
An unusual feature of this movement is how it slows to a glacial pace in recapitulating the first theme at its conclusion. The dance-like quality of the second movement scherzo is rough, swaggering and full of ostinato rhythmic energy.
The concluding Allegro is a clearly structured rondo in which the eccentric but playful opening theme occurs three times, separated by two contrasting episodes, the second of which sees the piano take off for the races.
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Gaspar Cassadó (1897-1966)
Suite for Cello Solo (Cassadó, Gaspar)