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Schroeder Premieres

Pietro Locatelli         

Sonata in D Major

While not the first to perform the Locatelli sonata in the United States (that distinction goes to Lino Mattioli, Cincinnati 1894), Alwin Schroeder introduced the work in Baltimore (Nov. 1897), New York City (Jan. 25, 1898), and in West Coast cities such as San Francisco (May 27, 1898). Schroeder subsequently played it in many cities throughout the US. Originally for violin, the sonata is known to cellists thanks to Alfredo Piatti, who unveiled his version in January 1879 and performed it many times on London concerts before publishing it in 1894. Even at its first hearing, the Piatti arrangement raised eyebrows: "Signor Piatti... has added an accompaniment for the pianoforte and a cadenza at the close of the first [actually second] movement. The finale has also undergone some modifications... [Piatti] deserves much praise for introducing so interesting a work, and would have deserved still more if he had given us Locatelli’s text without additions or comment of any kind.” (The Times, London, Jan. 7, 1879, p. 3) 

          The "modernized" Locatelli sonata gave Schroeder an ideal virtuoso vehicle within the 

suitably "high-brow" framework of a sonata, and provided novelty and stylistic contrast on Kneisel Quartet concerts. "Between the ensemble numbers Mr. Schroeder [and Mr. Whiting]…played a sonata for violoncello, by Pietro Locatelli. …it sounded delightfully fresh and piquant, especially the last movement. As for Mr. Schroder’s performance, it was a splendid exposition of truly classic playing, in which the publication of the musical idea was the uppermost thought, not the exploitation of the instrument and the technical skill of the player.” (New York Tribune, Jan. 26, 1898, p. 7) Between 1898 and 1904 several visiting cellists from Europe also played the sonata in the US, including Gerardy (1898), Ruegger (1899, 1903), and Casals (1904).

          Schroeder himself gave many performances of the Locatelli from coast to coast during the 1904-1907 period, and the reception of both the work and Schroeder's playing was even warmer:

"…[The Locatelli sonata] has some of the qualities of a virtuoso piece; but it has substantial musical value and insinuating grace and old world charm. Mr. Schroeder’s playing of it was the work of a great artist; as such he was greeted with an unwonted outburst of welcome, and as such he was acclaimed again and again at the close. In breath of style, repose, clarity of expression, and perfect command of all the subtleties of the technique of the instrument it was an extraordinary performance. Few masters of the violoncello can make passages of agility seem so unobtrusive, so natural to the instrument, even musical in significance, as he.” (New York Times, March 1, 1905) In Los Angeles Schroeder's rendition purportedly “drove the great audience quite mad with enthusiasm; especially exquisite was his rendition of the adagio movement with its profound passion and depth of sadness. Eight times the dignified little man, faintly smiling at the shaking clamor of the house, bowed his thanks. Louder and louder grew the applause, finally forcing an encore.” (Los Angeles Herald, May 20, 1905) Later in his career, Schroeder played to the Locatelli on concerts in New York (1910) and Boston (1912, 1924).

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