I fell in love with the Romberg Cello Sonatas when I started using them regularly as teaching pieces. It took me awhile to fully the understand the breadth of cello technique that Romberg teaches in his Sonatas but when I did, I was entranced.
From shifting and positions to rhythm patterns and bowing challenges, the Sonatas gave my students a music experience that prepared them for much of what is to come in cello study.
Students would finish studying a Romberg Sonata and be playing at an entire level or two above their original level when they started the Sonata. They would be much more competent than when they had started, easily playing exercises, etudes, and pieces that would have given them pause before Romberg.
Other teaching pieces didn't give cellists that same skills that Romberg's Sonatas did. As I saw the effect that playing Romberg's music had on my students, I came to deeply respect this music that so wonderfully transformed my students.
Two of Romberg's Sonatas became my favorites: the Sonata in E Minor and the Sonata in C Major. I use the Sonata in E minor as the first Sonata after a student has started shifting and has learned fourth position (plus a little second and third positions). I might use one or two other pieces after that, depending on the student, and then we are ready to start the Sonata in C Major.
Over the past 20+ years, I've taught a lot of Romberg to students. It's gotten to the point where I can predict mistakes before they make them. It was getting boring hearing the same mistakes over and over. I really wanted to expand the influence of Romberg on my students and teach all of the skills that he required in his Sonatas.
So I wrote The Romberg Sonata in C Major Study Book for Cello and now, teaching that Sonata is much more exciting! Where I used to sit and drone corrections over and over, I can now have my students play the exercises and improve in front of me. We can spend the lessons working on phrasing and expression instead of rhythm, shifting, and bowing.
I love hearing them play the Sonata excerpts after they've played the exercises. Where students used to stop or struggle, my exercise-powered students sail through. They play confidently and they enjoy the music they're making instead of wallowing in frustration.
Here are some pages of free cello exercises; Preparatory Studies that have a few bits of technique that you will use in the Romberg Sonata in C Major:
And when you've tried those studies, move on to the much more comprehensive Romberg Study Book available in print here and as a download here.
Why play an entire book devoted to a Romberg Sonata? Because teaching students to be both solid and creative musicians is fun! Because playing well brings joy. And because mastering this wonderful Sonata might be the most satisfying thing you've done all year!
So, Devil's Dream has some tricky string crossings! Both the bow and the fingers have to change strings with efficient, agile movements in order to play this piece at a fast "fiddle" tempo.
Here's the version of Devil's Dream that we'll work on:
Here's a Warm-Up Exercise for String Crossings:
Focusing on just the bow can help you identify underlying string crossing issues. Here are the open strings that your bow is playing under the actual fiddle tune:
Now, one of the main difficulties with this piece is crossing strings with the left hand. Here is an exercise to work on crossing strings with the fingers:
And another exercise for the left hand:
And finally, three exercises for speed. Start slow and when you've learned them, play them as fast as possible. Keep your bow smooth and close to the strings. "Bar" your first finger across the strings in measures 3&4 and 11&12 to help make your motions as efficient as possible.
Happy cello fiddling!
Cassia Harvey can't ever find or play enough exercises. She searches for rare and out-of-print studies and etudes in her free time. If you know of any, please let her know. Seriously; it's an obsession.