FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

Boccherini/Grutzmacher Concerto

All of the delightful thematic material for Stravinsky‘s immensely successful ballet music “Pulcinella”(1920) was taken from various different pieces by Pergolesi (1710-1736). This is not so very different from what Grutzmacher did 25 years earlier in 1895 with his “Boccherini” Cello Concerto in Bb, which is, like Pulcinella, also a very attractive and successful piece. This concerto, like Pulcinella once again, is also a “collage”, made up material from several different original Baroque works (this time, unlike Stravinsky, using Boccherini concertos), reworked in the style of the arranger. Whereas Stravinsky treated Pergolesi’s music in his own neo-classical style, Grutzmacher treated Boccherini’s music – especially as regards the orchestration – to a reworking in the late Romantic style of his own epoch.

It would be a shame to refuse to play this piece simply because of its lack of authenticity. Had Grutzmacher called his concerto “The Grutzmacher Concerto (Using Romanticised Material by Boccherini)” then we would probably be perfectly happy to play it nowadays, but at the time of his arrangement this title would have no doubt been a guarantee of commercial failure. Kreisler had the same dilemma, presenting many of his own beautiful compositions as rediscovered gems by recognised long-dead composers.

Like the cellist Fitzenhagen’s reworking of Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo Variations”, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Gounod’s addition of his beautiful “Meditation” melody to Bach’s First Piano Prelude, the Boccherini/Grutzmacher Concerto could be considered as a totally valid and worthwhile “combined effort” in which the material of a fine composer is subsequently “improved upon” by another fine musician.