First Steps in Violoncello Playing

German cellist and composer Sebastian Lee (1805-1887).

His works are not well known, but some of his easier etudes are learned by students from beginner to advanced. He did write a lot of material but is one of those poor souls who–for some reason or another–was excluded from the repertoire category.

Although his etudes give endless amounts of technical practice in all shapes and forms, and has plenty of cute or pretty and challenging and interesting numbers they are simply not recognizable. That is, if someone were playing a Lee piece even a student is unlikely to know who wrote it.

Fortunately for us, we are in a perfect place in history to re-introduce old compositions. You see it already in many areas: concertos, symphonies, vocal numbers, and of course, etudes. There are too many composers to count that are being discovered anew, recorded, and then listened to by thousands of people. 

One beginner set, Opus 101, has caught my eye. His “First Steps in Violoncello Playing” is similiar in scope to another cellist’s work that I worked on and recorded this summer. Hugo Schlemueller wrote his Opus 54 “First Pieces for the Young Cellist” as duets for student and teacher just as Lee did his op.101. 

They are useful numbers, helping to build technique and ability from the ground up one step at a time. All the while, they do so with some level of interest, intrigue, and fun–playing with someone else is usually more entertaining than playing alone. 

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