FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

Martin Berteau: Cello Fingering Discoveries

The french cellist-composer Martin Berteau (1691-1771) was not only the composer of “Sammartini’s” famous G major sonata, and the teacher of both Jean-Pierre Duport and Breval, he was also one of the inventors of thumbposition. Here are some extracts from movements of his Opus 1 Cello Sonatas in which he makes use, in 1748, of this novel technique.

Berteau And The Origins of Thumb Position: Extracts From Opus 1 Cello Sonatas

And here, for historical curiosity, is his entire Sonata Op 1 No. 1, in its original version for two cellos (solo and basso continuo):

Berteau: Sonata Op 1 No 1

The first edition of the five sonatas and trio that make up this Opus 1 collection can be downloaded here. This edition is not especially interesting as a practical playing edition because of the frequent use of unusual clefs to which we are not accustomed nowadays (and the impossible page-turns), but they are very interesting from a historical point of view because they contain Berteau’s original fingering suggestions. These fingerings confirm what several passages in Bach’s Cello Suites seem to suggest: that violin fingerings were used on the cello in this period:

berteau fingerings