Sunday, August 16, 2020

a cello's century

Heinrich the cello has now been in our family for a century, so I've used the lockdown to write up his biography of sorts - a family history / memoir / general obsessing about all things cello-related - which is now almost finished. It's all written in German so far, but obviously if anybody wanted to publish it in English, I'd be happy to do a translation. Some bits and bobs have appeared on this blog before, so here's a table of contents with PDF links to sample chapters in German as well as cross-references to relevant blog entries in English.

Status update 25.10.2022: The initial manuscript is complete, the first three chapters are online as PDF files hosted on my website / backups on Google Drive (GD), see links below. This month, chapter 1 has grown by a couple of sections, after the surprising discovery of Heinrich's poems. The new bits are currently on pages 8 (last para) through to page 20.

Status update 8.9.2023: I thought it was almost finished way back in 2020, but I keep discovering fascinating things that are related to the topic in one way or another, and I still need to visit the city archives at Wuppertal. Today I've uploaded the most recent version of chapter 1, which includes an appreciation of Maria's recipe book as well as a new sub-chapter on W.O. von Horn's romantic stories. A natural end to the timeline of the story has emerged, however, as Heinrich the cello has now moved out of my house to live with the young cellist.

1. Heinrich and his cello [PDF / GD] (updated 08.09.2023)
a railway man
once there were emperors (Tangermünde)
Tangermünde railway station 1889
a whole new city (Strasbourg-Neustadt)
professor leather trousers (Strasbourg)
Mahler and Strauss in Strasbourg
a very romantic poet (Strasbourg still)
blue flower finally found (content of the Strasbourg poems)
romantic stories (clues from a book both young lovers read)
ancient recipes (life in Dieuze as reflected in Maria's recipe book)
a city through time (Wuppertal-Elberfeld)
quartet times three
story of an old cello
musical connections

2. Frieda and her piano [PDF / GD]
moonlight sonata
european nations stirred and shaken (the Jan Dopheide / Jean d'Oppede story)
the Gütersloh connection
finding Minden
railway memories (Minden)
checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
a city on the border (Aachen)
gemstone town (Idar-Oberstein)
a singing lesson
an old family fiddle

3. My musical miseducation [PDF / GD]
my musical miseducation (an English-language precursor to this chapter, about 1/3 of the length)
les chansons de mon enfance
blow along (harmonica)
my school recorder
Blue the guitar
first synthesizer
learning from Balzac

4. The next generation
the right instrument
obscure composers
Beethoven for cello and flute

5. Late beginners
beginning to see some improvement
the dancers will fall over

6. Bach in quarantine
take a leap
stay home play Bach
jigging on
memorising Bach
according to Bach
running slowly
back to the beginning
second wave
movements in tiers
new year, new minuets
sadness and strength
jigging into spring
recording some progress
memory full
jigging into summer
summer holiday
not sure where I'll draw the finish line for the Bach suites adventures, but check the bach tag for further movements and musings.

I'll probably find a space where I can fit these random cellists in as well:
a cellist lost (Zdenka Cerny)
Johann Benjamin Groß
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch

Books which have helped and/or inspired me with this, and which I have reviewed on this blog include:
The cello suites: In search of a baroque masterpiece, by Eric Siblin
The music instinct: how music works and why we can’t do without it, by Philip Ball
Never too late: My musical life story by John Holt

Also, other memoirs that inspired me in this project are now labelled with the memoir tag.

We have a grand total of two (correction: three) photos of Heinrich in his string quartet, dating from 1927. Only now did I notice that zooming in on one of the photos you can actually read what they're playing, it's Brahms. As Brahms only published three string quartets, we know almost exactly what was played ...

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