Dotzauer Project: announcing the Twelve Pieces for Two Cellos, op. 156

This article is an expanded version of the Editorial Notes that can be found in the published edition, available at this link. A promotional video can be watched here below:


The fourth instalment of the Dotzauer Project brings us one step closer to completing its first cycle, the one encompassing the five volumes of cello duets. This is also the fourth book of the collection, and being marked as Op. 156, it is crucial to point out how much time had passed from the third one (soon to be published), Op. 63. We are looking at about twenty years when Johann Justus Friedrich Dotzauer (1783—1860) dedicated his composing production to other instrumentations. When I started this cycle, I decided to publish these books in order of ascending difficulty. While this collection has a couple of quite challenging duets (namely N° 2 and N° 10), it is, in general, not harder to tackle than Op. 58. All of Op. 156’s twelve duets are written in bass clef which, while not a guarantee of ease of playing, certainly concur to giving the entire collection a less menacing outlook.

What makes this collection unique is its title: Douze Pièces | pour deux Violoncelles | contenans des Airs nationaux et des Fugues | à l’usage des commençans, literally “Twelve Pieces | for two Cellos | containing some National Songs and some Fugues | dedicated to beginners”. I have already explained in details in previous publications how Dotzauer was fond of the fugue form, but this collection brings it to a whole new level, almost preparing us for the two fugue-only collections he would soon write (Op. 161 & Op. 171). The first part of the title, though, is new: six out of the twelve pieces are based on national themes that must have been popular at the time. At a first and inattentive look, this book could appear to be the least interesting of the five from a cello technique standpoint, but musically, it is for sure one of the most engaging and enjoyable to play. This will hopefully make it an easy choice for teachers looking forward to giving their student some nice and not too difficult piece to play, all the while making good progress on their technique.

Hunting for the source

The work on this edition started without the Urtext, as it had happened for Op. 159. The only source I could work on was the heavily edited version by Carl Hüllweck (1852—1910), published by Breitkopf & Härtel under plate no. VA 1348, possibly around 1892. Not only had Hüllweck altered the original text, he also changed the title of the collection, hiding the original intention of the composer. He called it simply: “Zwölf Übungen” or “Twelve Exercises”, with no mention of the national airs or of the fugues.

Much later in the preparation process, I was able to find a copy of the first edition of the work in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), USA, whose librarian was very keen on helping. The item was found under the entry: Douze Pièces pour deux Violoncelles contenans des Airs nationaux et des Fugues à l’usage des commençans, Livr. 4, oeuvre 156 / composées par J.J.F. Dotzauer, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA. This was, in fact, the first edition of the piece, published by Breitkopf & Härtel under plate n° 6152, thus around 1839, when Dotzauer was 56 years old.

The collection by Johannes Klingenberg of the “57 Duets” used in the other editions will also be called upon here, but just for one duet, since Dotzauer’s Mr. Hyde deemed this collection not interesting enough to include more than that. Interestingly enough, he chose what, I feel, is the least beautiful of the twelve pieces for his collection.

What’s in this Edition

This edition will come, as usual, as an Urtext first, alternative sources second. It will offer a score and a set of parts based on Breitkopf & Härtel’s plate 6152, yet polished and converted to modern notation wherever necessary, available separately or as a bundle. A Collectors’ Edition will then follow, including Hüllweck’s score and parts, and a score of duet n° 1 in Klingenberg’s rendition.

As much as I could try, it was not possible to have all duets playable from the score, as some were just too long. None is longer than three pages, though, so printing and taping those out should not pose too big of a challenge. The separate parts, instead, are playable as they are without page turns.

All versions are offered as professional Press Quality PDFs.

The Twelve Pieces, Op. 156 in detail

All of these duets are written in bass clef, with only one of them reaching B4 in sixth position as top note. One normally tries to avoid four ledger lines in any clef, but if it is an isolated occurrence, such as in N° 10, it is acceptable.

Starting from musical form, we see an increasing dominance of the fugue, alternated by the nationals melodies that we will soon analyse:

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

Fugue dominates with fifty percent of the total, followed by rounded binary (33%). No. 4 is possibly the most interesting one form-wise because it mixes fugue and rounded binary. The first and last parts, in D major, embrace a marvellous and tragic fugue in D minor.

When looking at key signatures, they are, in general, much simpler than in other collections:

  • C major: nos. 1, 12
  • A minor: nos. 2, 11
  • F major: no. 3 (plus middle section of no. 1)
  • D major: nos. 4, 9, 10
  • D minor: no. 5 (plus fugue of no. 4)
  • G major: nos. 6, 7
  • B-flat major: no. 8
  • A major: middle section of no. 11

If we exclude the central part of no. 11, no other duet uses more than two accidentals in its key signature.

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

  • 4/4 (or C): nos. 1, 5, 6, 11
  • 2/4: nos. 2, 4, 7, 8
  • 6/8: nos. 3, 9, 10
  • 3/4: no. 12

In previous collections, we had the absolute dominance of simple quaternary (4/4) time. Here it is still used (33%), but its struggle with simple binary (2/4) ends in a draw, closely followed by compound binary (6/8).

My suggested order of practicing is as follows: no. 1, 11, 12, 9, 6, 5, 8, 7, 4, 3, 10, 2. 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 a chorale-like piece where the two voices cross and part ways like two fishes swimming in a pond. The second part, in F major, nurtures a dialogue between the two instruments, letting Dotzauer’s counterpoint soul shine. The first part then comes back, closing the circle. This is the only duet included in Klingenberg’s collection.

No. 2 in A minor

This theme and variations was very used at the time. The oldest printed source I could find is “Ach vad för en usel koja” (from the Swedish “Oh, what a lousy hut”), attributed to Carl Michael Bellman (1740—1795). It was used in the Capriccio on Swedish Themes, Op. 28, for cello and orchestra in E major, and in the Swedish Air with four variations by Bernhard Romberg (1767—1841), Dotzauer’s teacher. Dotzauer’s version is much easier than Romberg’s one, and thus more targeted at young students. It is nevertheless the most complex piece of the collection if one wants to play it at speed.

No. 3 in F major

Here comes the first fugue of the collection, in compound binary meter. Looking already at the first line, one can appreciate how Dotzauer is trying to confuse the listener with all those ties between bars. It is a challenging piece for rhythm and ensemble, but a most educational one. I have already praised Dotzauer’s mastery over the fugue form in previous editions, and will not overdo with flattery this time.

No. 4 in D major

The first part of this duet is taken from one of the most famous German Christmas Carols, ”O du fröhliche” (“Oh you cheerful”). Its melody is based on the Marian song “O sanctissima”, which is supposed to come from Sicily (hence the title Dotzauer gave to it). The poet of the first of three verses is the Weimar “orphan father” Johannes Daniel Falk (1768-1826), while the following two were written by Heinrich Holzschuher (1798–1847) from Wunsiedel. More information about this piece can be found here1.

The second part elaborates from this melody and makes a fugue in D minor out of it, possibly the most beautiful one of the collection. The main melody comes back at the end, giving this piece a rounded binary form.

No. 5 in D minor

This fugue marked Alla breve requires to be played at a quite brisk speed, or it will not achieve the desired effect. Apart from a few uncomfortable accidentals in the third line, it doesn’t provide a serious challenge. The closing part is all in double stops and, curiously, the last bar uses a breve in a 4/4 bar, a practice often found among contrapuntal composers.

No. 6 in G major

We now come to the selling point of the collection: the French national anthem. “La Marseillaise” was written in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836) in Strasbourg after the declaration of war by France against Austria, and was originally titled “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin” (“War Song for the Army of the Rhine”). The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic’s anthem in 1795. More info about it can be found here2.

Dotzauer calls this “La Marseillaise” ou “la Caramagnole”. Looking at this second term, we find that this was yet another song of the French Revolution time, probably brought to France by Piedmontese soldiers from the town of Carmagnola. This town is, incidentally, just 35 km away from where I live, and a place where I have been many times. The name of “La Caramagnole” as the title of a French song is considered to be indirectly derived from the Italian town—that is, the costume of the Piedmontese peasants living near Carmagnola was named after the town. Then, when some of those peasants came to Paris, their dress influenced the short jacket worn by working-class militant ”sans-culottes”, who sang the song—.

Sadly, there is no musical reference to this “Caramagnole” in Dotzauer’s duet. Thus, it is a mystery why he added this description to the duet’s title.

No. 7 in G major

Another fugue, marked Allegro, in simple binary meter. The subject is 5 bars long and yet, the second cello cannot wait for it to end, starting already on bar 5 and giving the whole piece a sense of urgency that always propels the listener forward. The practice we saw in previous collections of trying to find a way to have a last period in unison between the two instruments is no longer used in Op. 156.

No. 8 in B-flat major

The melody of this Allegretto comes from a Potpourris by an anonymous Czech composer from the 1840s (possibly before), written for string quartet, where this melody occupies the 7th place. The manuscript of the piece is held in the Prague National Library, if you would be interested in giving it a look.

This is one of the funniest pieces of the collection, especially for how the accompaniment is treated. The second cello, in fact, almost behaves like a bowed guitar, possibly reminiscent of how Schubert used to write the piano accompaniment of most of his lieder. The first cello part is simple, technically speaking, but once notes are mastered, the true challenge will begin, as giving life and character to this piece will not be an easy task.

No. 9 in D major

This Andante’s melody comes from an Irish traditional melody called “My Lodging is on the Cold Ground”, which seems to have enjoyed a long-lived popularity already in the XVII century. The modern version has been a very popular and enduring melody since its first appearance in print in England in Vocal Music, or The Songster’s Companion of 1775. However, the lyrics in one form or another are considerably older and were set to another tune composed by Matthew Lock, which appeared in the year 1664. When looking for a possible German source that Dotzauer may have used, the earliest we find is the Irlandaises Melodies by Vinzenz Lachner (1811—1893), whose first song has the same rhythm and melody as Dotzauer’s version—even though it is set in F major. The only doubt is that the manuscript is dated around 1850, which would place it eleven years after Dotzauer’s publication. There appears not to be an earlier source, neither printed nor in manuscript.

Its overall form is in three parts which could be labelled as A-B-A’, as it was customary for songs. It is also one of the easiest pieces of the collection when it comes to cello technique. Once more, the accompaniment is very guitar-like.

No. 10 in D major

This fugue marked as Allegro is the only piece in the collection reaching the 6th position, all the while offering serious rhythmical complexities. The subject is short, just two bars, but what makes this piece sound special are the continuous contrast between 6/8 and 3/4 writing between the two instruments. Interestingly enough, both the manuscript and Hüllweck’s version keep the clear mistake in bar 16 of the first cello part, when a B-double sharp is used instead of a B-sharp. This has been corrected, put into square brackets, and footnoted.

No. 11 in A minor

Dotzauer marks this Andantino as “Ecossais” (“Scottish”), but I couldn’t find any published reference to neither the first part’s melody in A minor, nor to the second part’s one in A major. It must have been a folk song that was popular at the time, but that was never written down and published. Regardless of its source, it is a charming melody that you will start whistling during your day as soon as you hear it. The second part has a soaring, beautiful melody that will help every student achieve a big and round sound.

No. 12 in C major

The collection ends with this fugue in C major, possibly the simplest one (technically speaking) not only of this book but of all the four published books so far. It is therefore a perfect introduction to the genre for a student who needs to get acquainted with the form. It goes up to the fourth position with three quick incursions to the half-string harmonic.

Editorial annotations

Only one clearly wrong note was found throughout the collection. Involving an accidental, a square bracket was added around the correction, and a footnote marked with •) was added in the text.

For all changes between Urtext and Hüllweck, and between Hüllweck and Klingenberg, you will find a dedicated section at the end of the respective documents describing them in detail.


A heartfelt thank you to the University of California, Los Angeles, and to its library staff for gifting me with a copy of the original first edition of this work.

Thank you to all those who are supporting me and my work in one way or another during this awkward period for me. Being surrounded by positive and helpful people is what keeps me pushing forward.

I hope you will enjoy playing through these pieces and teaching them to your students, spreading the sincere joy with which Dotzauer put them on paper.

The Editor

Michele Galvagno

Saluzzo, Italia — September 18th, 2022

  1.öhliche. Accessed on Saturday 17 September 2022.
  2. Accessed on Saturday 17 September 2022.

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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