Sonata for Violoncello & Piano in B flat Major, Op.38 No.3
Bernhard Romberg (1767-1841) was born in the German town of Dinklage. He became one of the leading cellists of his time, yet just from whom he learned to play is a matter of some dispute. It appears his father, also a cellist, gave him his first lessons. Various sources say he also studied with the German cellist Johann Schlicht and Viennese cellist Franz Marteau. However, other sources, pointing to the violinistic technique of his compositions, maintain that never took cello lessons and first learned to play the violin and then adapted what he learned to the cello. Whatever the case, his playing was widely admired and he toured throughout Europe with much success. Beethoven is said to have thought quite highly of Romberg’s playing and even offered to write a concerto for him. Cellists will be interested to learn that Romberg made several improvements to the cello including lengthening the fingerboard and flattened the side under the C string, thus giving it more freedom to vibrate. He is also responsible for simplifying cello notation to only three clefs, the bass clef, the tenor clef and the treble clef. Until his time, it was common to use several C clefs, as many as six to eight.
Most of Romberg’s compositions are for the cello but he did also write a a few light operas, three symphonies and 11 string quartets. He composed a total of six cello sonatas all of which were extremely popular and frequently performed in concert throughout the 19th century. The B flat Major Sonata of Op.38 is the last of the set which dates from around 1810. In three movements, the substantial first movement, Allegro, begins with a stately theme which at the same time takes full advantage of the cello’s singing quality. The movement while essentially lyrical has several episodes of exiting arpeggio and triplet passages The second movement, Andante, has for its main theme a simple but lovely folktune. The finale, Alla polacca, is a true Polonaise. The military melody is quite attractive and features several exciting interludes.