Dotzauer Project: announcing the Twelve Original Pieces for Two Cellos, Op. 52

This article is an expanded version of the Editorial Notes that can be found in the published edition, available at this link.



The Dotzauer complete republishing project continues with its third instalment, once more dedicated to his production for two cellos. So far, we have seen the Twelve Original Pieces, Op. 58, and the Twenty-four Exercises, Op. 159. They both belong to a series of five books dedicated to teaching cello through duet practicing, making them excellent classroom material. Johann Justus Friedrich Dotzauer (1783—1860) wrote more than three hundred duets for two cellos, and the first part of this project is dedicated to publishing all of them. These five books, though, containing a total of seventy-two duets, are the ones that contain the largest number of concert-like pieces. This is to say that the purely technical aspect of these pieces is brilliantly masked by the composer and many, if not all of them, can effectively be performed in the concert hall alongside much more blazoned compositions. Being the great musician he was, Dotzauer did not think about arranging his pieces into an ascending order of complexity until much later in his production; rather he cared about writing beautiful music. My classification work, though, has been trying to arrange all of his duets from easiest to hardest, factoring left-hand position, rhythm, and key, among all parameters. This choice has obliged me to publish books as the classification ran out of études from a specific source. Both Op. 58 and Op. 159 cover no more than the first four positions of the neck of the cello, but the latter contains pieces that are way more complex in their form, length, and key coverage1.

The Twelve Original Pieces, Op. 52, the first book of the series—Dotzauer himself writes “Livre I” (First Book, in French) on the cover, showing how he had a plan—goes up to the sixth position, thus covering the first two of the three intermediary positions. The difference in difficulty with the two other volumes is not abysmal, as most of the time one still plays in the first four positions, but one must be ready to be brave when the higher positions call.

Hunting for the source

Careful study of more than one hundred of Dotzauer’s scores made me realise something crucial: if there are too many markings, it is not by his hand. Dotzauer’s manuscripts and first editions are so clean, devoid of unnecessary markings like staccato dots, tenuto dashes, extra slurs, obvious fingerings, that one wonders whether he was rushing and just needed to produce too much to care about those details, or if he was just a bit “old school”. He was thirteen years younger than Beethoven, and the greatest master of us all was already quite precise in his markings. It is not possible to trace a line in music history when composers or arrangers started to add articulations, fingerings, and other suggestions on most of the notes, nor should we. It is clear, though, that Dotzauer represents one of the links between the composers of the early XVIII century and those of the late XIX century. The first ones, thanks also to a greater awareness of performance practice among musicians, wrote as few markings as possible, leaving almost complete freedom to the performers. The others, instead, felt the need of specifying, describing, almost painting the expression of each note with their suggestions. A fascinating crossroads between figurative arts, philosophy, and sociology can be seen here, and I will carefully stop before venturing into uncharted waters. I feel our quandary should be left hovering in midair, without any judgmental answer.

I first got my hands on Dotzauer’s Op. 52 in the early months of 2020, when the library of Zurich, Switzerland, sent me a scanned copy. Marked on the first cello part’s cover was the title, in old French, Douze Differéntes Pièces pour Deux Violoncelles à l’usage de commençans, the Opus number (52), and the publisher’s stamp: Leipsic chez Breitkopf & Härtel. If you already own a copy of Op. 58 you will have noticed that the title is exactly the same, with the only difference being the Opus number and the Book number (Livre I vs. Livre II). The plate number was 9178, and it is mentioned in the 1847 Breitkopf & Härtel catalogue, showing that it must have been published before said date. In the same catalogue, though, we also find Op. 159, meaning that, at least in writing, this must have been conceived much earlier. Browsing plate numbers, the two surviving entries surrounding 9178 are dated 1855, which either doesn’t make sense, or refers to a later surviving copy of the same plate. Looking at other works by Dotzauer around Op. 52, we can approximate a date of composition in the 1820s, when he was around forty years old. His performance career was still in full swing, while his teaching one was in its infancy, and we can clearly see this from the evolution in his writing. The source of Zurich’s library, though, had a problem: the second cello part was not belonging to the same edition, rather to Carl Hüllweck’s re-edition of the latest years of the XIX century, always by Breitkopf & Härtel, bearing plate number VA 1345.

Basing my edition on a patchwork was out of the question, and so the hunting began from the source: Breitkopf & Härtel. I was quite disappointed to learn that they no longer had a copy of plate 9178 in their archives, while they had a copy of the first cello of VA 1345. They also added that 9178 was nowhere to be found. The price they asked for a copy of just the first cello of VA 1345 (11 pages) was so high that I decided not to proceed, so I thanked the librarian and took my leave. My best options seemed to publish the original first cello and an empty second cello. Then the librarian of Zentralbibliothek Zurich, came to the rescue, telling me that the music library in Frankfurt may still have a copy of 9178. I immediately wrote them and, a few weeks later, a pristine complete copy of the first edition was in my hands, ready to be processed. Thanks to the kindness of these librarians, and only in second place to the tens of hours I put in reassembling the material into modern notation, you can now be the first to enjoy the original intent by Dotzauer.

What’s in this Edition

A good deal of struggle has been put into making the score playable without the need for a set of parts, as I know many of you who are reading this prefer to play directly from the score. A tablet with a page-turning pedal will for sure make the experience smoother, but only one duet is longer than three pages in the score (No. 10), while most of them fit nicely on two pages. Thus, this edition will be offered as either a score only, a parts only, or a score and parts bundle, leaving you complete freedom of choice. A Collector’s Edition will also be available, containing score and parts of the edition Johannes Klingenberg (1852—1905) published with Edition Henry Litolff at the end of the XIX century. He did not publish Op. 52 directly, but rather included eleven out of the twelve exercises (with the exclusion of No. 1) in his ”57 Kleine Duette für 2 Violoncelli”. This special edition will also include an analysis of all the changes Klingenberg performed on the original. Some are crucial, including some rhythm and note alterations. All versions will come as professional Press Quality PDFs, while the score and parts bundle of the Urtext version will also come as an EPUB, should you prefer that format.

The Twelve Original Pieces, Op. 52

The reason dictating the choice of publishing the First Book of two-cello pieces as the third one is clear ever since opening the first page: there comes the Tenor Clef, absent in the whole Op. 58 and Op. 159. All these twelve little gems are sensibly more difficult than those found in the other two books, so I suggest you first tackle those, before moving on to these. Once more, the compositional flow didn’t allow Dotzauer to plan for a raising difficulty beforehand so, after classifying them, I will also provide a recommended practicing order.

Starting from musical form, we saw how Op. 58 focused on the Theme with Variations form and Op. 159 on the Rounded Binary form. This collection is sensibly different and, in my opinion, more fascinating:

  • Fugues: nos. 1, 4, 6, 8, 11
  • Rounded binary form (A in home key, B in related key—subdominant, dominant, major relative—, A with “Da Capo al Fine” or slightly altered): nos. 2, 3, 5, 7,
  • Theme with variations: nos. 9, 12 (Gavotte-like theme)
  • Simple ternary form (A-B-A) in one single part: no. 10

You can immediately see how fugues take up more than forty percent of the whole work, showing how much he loved counterpoint, and how deeply ingrained its teaching was in composers back then. Each of these fugues is a little marvel and, curiously, most of them end with a unison passage between the two cellos, as if the chase between prey and hunter eventually ended in a truce where they both decided to hold hands and proceed towards a common goal. My absolute favourite one is No. 8, in G minor, with a wonderfully rhythmical subject which, in two bars of common time, joins together two bars of 3/4 with a bar of 2/4. Simply fascinating!

Looking now at key signatures, these are limited to three sharps and three flats (part B of No. 9 excluded), making them a perfect choice for exam pieces in those countries, like Italy, where the curriculum shows that as a requirement.

  • C major: nos. 1, 2 (with part B in F major)
  • A minor: no. 3 (with part B in A major)
  • F major: no. 4
  • D minor: no. 5 (with part B in D major)
  • B-flat major: no. 6
  • G major: nos. 7 (with part B in G minor), 10
  • G minor: no. 8
  • E-flat major: no. 9 (with part B in E-flat minor)
  • C minor: no. 11 (the introduction is in C major)
  • A major: no. 12 (one variation is in A minor)

Finally, we look at meter, to see how this was distributed:

  • 4/4 (or C as common time): nos. 1, 4 (introduction only), 7, 8, 10 (with a quarter-note upbeat), 11 (with a 16th-note upbeat in the introduction), 12 (with a half-note upbeat)
  • 2/4: nos. 2, 3, 9
  • 3/4: nos. 4 (fugue only)
  • 6/8: no. 5
  • 3/8: no. 6

My suggested order of practicing is as follows: no. 9, 1, 5, 10, 2, 7, 11, 3, 12, 4, 6, 8. This is not a fixed-in-place imposition, rather a mild recommendation to give your students the best learning experience available.

Let’s now take a brief look at each of the twelve pieces

No 1. In C major.

The collection opens with this fugue in C major where the second cello introduces the subject, being answered four bars later by the first cello a fifth above. Its structure is complete, and yet simple, providing a perfect introduction to the genre for your students. It is also not too challenging rhythm-wise, and has only moderate incursions in tenor clef. I was surprised not to see this being included in Klingenberg’s collection.

No. 2 in C Major—F major

This Andante is the perfect testing field for double stops, using mostly sixths and a single polyphonic passage in the second part, set in the subdominant. The first cello part is almost entirely written in Tenor Clef, even if it doesn’t go beyond fourth position G. Here the student can also meet turns over certain notes, which Dotzauer doesn’t explain—he does so in the method, and rightly assumes musicians know how to realise them—while Klingenberg’s version develops them.

No. 3 in A minor/major

This funny Rondo Allegro is in two parts, the first rhythmical, the second lyrical. In the first part, the student can practice discipline of the middle third of the bow, all-the-while taking care of the precision required to play such a long run of triplets. Those same triplets are taken by the second cello in the second part, which requires a broader bow division and also ventures up to the 5th position.

No. 4 in F major

This fugue is the second one of the collection and starts with a chorale-like introduction, prelude to the chorales and fugues collections he will publish towards the end of his life. Here the student will be able to practice chords intonation, alone first, and with the teacher next, adjusting their fingers until the perfect sound gets produced. Once more, the second cello starts “the chase”, followed a fifth above by the first cello four bars later. The sheer abundance of syncopated rhythms make the ensemble practice of this piece as useful as it is difficult. A fascinating piece nonetheless.

No. 5 in D minor/major

This Andantino is the shortest piece in the collection, totalling just sixteen bars. The first part, in D minor, is a sweet Siciliana, with the second cello accompanying in double stops. The second part, in D major, is in rhythmic diminution, and slightly canonical in nature. Each four-bar segment of the piece is repeated, and a “Da Capo al Fine” gives the Siciliana one more chance to be heard, bringing the total effective length of the piece to forty-eight bars.

No. 6 in B-flat major

This new fugue has a three-bar long subject and is in 3/8 time, a metre seldom found in music but of which Dotzauer was quite fond, producing close to twenty duets in it. It is quite a long piece, close to 90 bars, and is the first one of the collection to go up to the 6th position. The rhythmical accentuation continuously shifts between 3/8 and 6/16, making the ensemble playing quite challenging, and thus pedagogically rewarding. The only double stops are to be found in the three final chords, and are basic ones.

No. 7 in G major/minor

If one looks at this Allegro, one can see how Dotzauer was perfectly capable to write staccato dots, accents, articulations, slurs, and dynamics. Just, he did so when he deemed it necessary. That is why looking at the source is so important because later editions buried the text under too many annotations. The first part of this piece is a simple two-phrase dialogue where each cello plays and then accompanies the other. The second part, in minor, is way more interesting, with some contrapuntal features to raise the difficulty bar.

No. 8 in G major

My favourite piece of the collection, this fugue, has a very long introduction, followed by this fascinating subject which looks like being in ternary simple metre until a shortening in the last two notes of the second bar brings it back to a quaternary metre. This is also the first fugue of the collection where the first cello presents the subject. The last four bars are in unison, almost celebrating such a long and perilous journey together. Personally, this is an unmissable piece from every student’s repertoire.

No. 9 in E-flat major/minor

This Andante starts with an apparently boring theme, and yet Dotzauer manages to make a four minutes variations structure out of it. The theme is made up of two 8-bar phrases, after which the variation begins, even if the composer doesn’t mark anything up as such. Variation 1 is in diminution, while Variation 2 inverts the intervals and the voices’ distribution. Variation 3 does away with the repetition structure and goes to E-flat minore. The fourth and final variation comes back to E-flat major and is an explosion of rhythmical happiness, with dialogues in triplets sealing the end of this fascinating piece.

No. 10 in G major

Formally the simplest piece of the collection, this Allegro is also the longest one. Bowing is very regular, and the only true challenge is in the middle section where double flats try to confuse the player to achieve a brave enharmonic modulation from G-flat minor to F-sharp and, from there, to B minor. The second cello, for once, has a mere accompaniment role, but can be useful for a student who needs to study chords.

No. 11 in C minor/major

The last fugue of the collection starts in C major in yet another introductory chorale. Then, a shift to C minor brings up the subject in the first cello. This is answered four bars later by the second cello, a fifth above. The whole fugue alternates imitative sections to chorale-like ones, always playing around the minor sixth interval proposed by the subject. A final chords run concludes the piece as the chorale that had introduced it.

No. 12 in A major/minor

The collection closes with a set of variations on a Gavotte-like theme in the singing key of A major. The theme is 8 bars long and divided into two repeated sections, the second of which surprisingly in F-sharp minor. The First Variation develops both parts with a rhythmical diminution, while the Second one brings a dramatic shift with the A minor key. Plenty of turn ornaments are involved here, so make sure your students profit from this chance to learn them well. The Third Variation has the first cello play in double-stops all the time, while the second cello engages in a 16th-note variation on the original accompaniment. A short coda, in gradual diminuendo, brings us to the closing of this mesmerising collection.

Editorial annotations

Very few clearly wrong notes were found throughout the pieces. When this involved only an accidental, like in the coda of No. 12, a square bracket was deemed enough to show the correction. In the only two other pieces where notes were almost surely wrong, they have been left as in the source, and a •) marking has been added to signal the presence of a footnote. There, you will be able to see what my suggestion in that regard would be.

The Klingenberg version is a whole other beast, as he didn’t take care to mention what he changed from the original score. I have faithfully reproduced his will, and then added a Critical Notes section at the end to list all of what he changed from the original. I believe this to be the most respectful way to act regarding both the composer and the first editor.

If, in the future, I will see that there is interest for it, I will hunt down the other cello part edited by Carl Hüllweck and add it to the Collector’s Edition, but, so far, I do not think it would prove a fundamental addition.


Special thanks go to Dr. Heinrich Aerni, of Zentralbibliothek Zurich and to the Library of the University of Music and Performing Arts Frankfurt am Main for granting me access to a copy of the first edition of this work. Thank you, also, to Janey Bennett who, from being an early customer, turned out to be a dear friend and the official proofreader of my English texts. These editions would not be the same without her help.

I hope you will be able to feel in these pieces the sheer enthusiasm they daily give to me while working on them. Please enjoy them, as I am sure Dotzauer thought about his student’s enjoyment while writing each one of them.

The Editor

Michele Galvagno

Belgrade, Serbia — July 31st, 2022

  1. In the Editorial Notes to Op. 159, I explained how Dotzauer had possibly decided to emulate J. S. Bach in writing twenty-four exercises covering all available keys.

Published by Michele Galvagno

Professional Musical Scores Designer and Engraver Graduated Classical Musician (cello) and Teacher Tech Enthusiast and Apprentice iOS / macOS Developer Grafico di Partiture Musicali Professionista Musicista classico diplomato (violoncello) ed insegnante Appassionato di tecnologia ed apprendista Sviluppatore iOS / macOS

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