It is impossible to imagine the music scene of the past 40 years without the presence of the cellist Julius Berger. Born in Augsburg, he has enriched the music world in myriad ways as a performer, a teacher, and a thinker who explores ideas beyond the “beaten path”. Among other things, he made a significant contribution to the literature of his instrument with his discovery and first recording of Luigi Boccherini's concertos, as well as through his commitment to new music through numerous world premieres.
What does the soldanella, the alpine snowbell, have to do with the almost never-heard works influenced by late Romanticism and inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach that can be heard on this CD?
Cellist Julius Berger explains it like this:
One of the best things about living in Germany’s Allgäu region is those days in spring when I can hike to the top of a mountain. Then I pass through two seasons, winter and spring. The snowline is especially fascinating. This is where the first flowers of the year appear, the blue snowbells (botanic or Latin name: “Soldanella alpina”) that push their blossoms up through the thawing snow. It always feels like a miracle.
As I began to discover forgotten music for solo violoncello from the twentieth century, I realized that these pieces were like snowbells: they were the first blossoms to appear almost 200 years after Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo suites.
From the rediscovery of historical performance practice
In the nineteenth century, the Bach suites were played with accompaniment; even Robert Schumann composed a piano accompaniment for the pieces. A solo performance was thought to be an affront to the audience. This was the prevailing opinion until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the legendary Pablo Casals brought the suites to worldwide attention, playing them senza Basso, as Bach had indicated. The original had been rescued and must have inspired composers of the time to reevaluate the possibilities for the medium. The most famous are Max Reger's "Solo Suites" and Zoltán Kodály's "Solo Sonata", both written in 1915.
In the search for these solo works, the internationally acclaimed cellist Julius Berger has made amazing discoveries especially in this early history of new cello solo music and presents them here as a performer in a most lively way. In the accompanying booklet, he enriches the production by adding exciting and witty stories worth knowing about the composers recorded here and their works.
Julius Berger's research began with Max Reger, whose 150th birthday is in 2023, and led from him to the violinist and composer Adolf Busch (1891-1952), a friend of Reger. Anyone taking a closer look at Adolf Busch and Pablo Casals will inevitably notice the name of Sir Donald Francis Tovey (1875-1940), pianist, composer and music scholar. Eventually, Julius Berger came across a solo suite for violin, dedicated to Adolf Busch, by Walter Courvoisier (1875-1931), a composer previously unknown to him. He added the highly interesting Suite in B minor to his collection with great conviction.
Precious insights into forgotten music – breathtakingly beautiful!
Soldanella – Works for Violoncello solo
Julius Berger: Violoncello
Johann Sebastian Bach: Six Suites for Violoncello solo, BWV 1007-1012
Julius Berger: Violoncello
Video Julius Berger