Capriccio for Cello & Piano, Op.40
Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (1848-1890) was born in the German town of Seesen, where his father was serving as music director. After studying with his father, he continued his studies with Theodor Müller and Friedrich Grützmacher, at the time the most famous cello teacher in Germany. On Grützmacher’s recommendation, he obtained a position of the Royal Saxon Hofkapelle and also pursued a solo career which brought him to the attention of both Franz Liszt and Nikolai Rubinstein founder of the Moscow Conservatory and, brother of the famous pianist Anton. Liszt wanted to engage Fitzenhagen as solo cellist of the grand-ducal orchestra in Weimar, where he was serving as music director, while Nikolai Rubinstein offered him a professorship at the Moscow Conservatory. He accepted Rubinstein's offer and became one of Russia's most important cello teachers and enjoyed an important solo career, taking part in the premiere of the Rococo Variations by Tchaikovsky as well as the premiere of his string quartets and piano trio. Fitzenhagen wrote several cello concertos and works for cello and piano which entered the 19th century repertoire as recital pieces and encores. He also composed a string quartet.
Capriccio was published in 1894 a few years after his death. However, during his lifetime, it was one of his signature works often performed by him and other cellists who had the requisite technique to bring it off on recitals. It was dedicated to his childhood friend Robert Hausmann, the cellist of Joachim String Quartet and a well-known soloist and teacher in his own right. The work begins as a breathtaking chromatic moto perpetuo racing over 4 octaves. Sandwiched between is a slower and highly romantic middle section.