Saint Saens: Introduction And Rondo Capriccioso

This has to be one of the most beautiful works ever written for a string instrument and I was always longing to give it a try on the cello. It is offered here transposed into the key of “D” which is, in principle, lowered in pitch by a fifth (as well as an octave). Some cellists play it in the original key, but this puts many of the already-difficult passages in such a high register that they become almost ridiculous with respect to both sound and difficulty. For the violinist, this is already a virtuoso showpiece, so for the cello, even when transposed down a fifth, it is still a very virtuosic and challenging piece.

In the Performance Version, the basic music has never been changed, but the following adaptations have been made to make it more playable on the cello:

Many of the available violin editions have been edited by great violinists, with their corresponding bowing and articulation suggestions. These may well be an improvement on the original, but it’s always nicer to start with the composer’s ideas (see Urtext). Fortunately, a scanned copy of Saint Saens’ original manuscript is available on and this has served as the source for our Literal Transcription, into which all of Saint Saens’ original notes, expressions, slurs, articulations and even beamings have been incorporated.

The “Easiest Version” has no thumb use and for this reason, some of the notes have needed to be changed (in addition to the octave transpositions).

The piano accompaniment part for the original violin version is of course no longer useful for us because we are playing the piece in a different key. The new piano part for this transposed version has needed not only to be transposed but also revoiced, with some notes going down a fifth while others go up a fourth. By far the most common transposition used for the piano part has actually been up a fourth, so while the solo voice (now the cello) has come down in register (compared to the violin) the accompaniment has come up. You (or your pianist) may want to use sometimes a different octave for some passages in the accompaniment.

  1. Edited Performance Version
  2.   Clean Performance Version
  3.   Easiest Version
  4.   Literal Transcription
  1. Piano Score

Here below are some downloadable “play-along” audios of the piano accompaniment. This piece is one of the most difficult to play with a pre-recorded accompaniment because – in keeping with its title “Capriccioso” and french character – there are a great number of tempo changes (mostly sudden), cadenza-like moments and other unexpected (but delightful) complications. Playing with a pre-recorded accompaniment would certainly not work for a performance, but as a practice tool, it may be useful. The first audio is of the slowest practice tempo, then there is a medium practice tempo version and finally a more virtuoso fast tempo. The faster and more difficult the passage, the more it has been slowed down so there are some radical and unexpected tempo changes in the practice versions even in passages that we normally might like to play in one constant tempo.

Quite a few new piano notes have been added in these accompaniments in order to give us rhythmic reference points. These notes have often needed to be played loudly in order for us to be able to hear them while we are playing. The complexities of playing with these pre-recorded accompaniments are such that a special cello part is offered here in which the added piano notes/references are included in our part (as small triangular cues) so that we can know what is going on.

  1. Performance Version for Playing With Pre-recorded Accompaniment

Slowest practice play-along accompaniment:

Medium-speed practice accompaniment

Performance-speed accompaniment