Sonata for Violoncello & Piano in G Major, Op.43 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. Op.43 No.3 is the third of the set which dates from around 1810 and is his final cello sonata. In three movements, the substantial first movement, Allegro, starts off, as was his usual practice with a stately and lyrical theme, one which has somewhat chromaticism and seems to lend itself to seamless interspersing withto more showy arpeggio and quick triplet passages. The middle movement, Romanza, is one of the beautiful early romantic pieces in the literature and was often performed by itself. The finale, Allegretto, in 6/8 is a genial rondo alternating a singing main subject with several quick virtuosic interludes with much appealing chromaticism.
Here is an excellent early Romantic era sonata which not only highlights the cello's singing quality but also the ability of the performer. It would be a good addition to any recital program.