Comparing Schlemüller and S. Lee

So far, I have played and recorded up to No. 14 in Sebastian Lee’s Op. 101 “First Steps in Cello Playing”.

When looking at Schlemüller’s and Lee’s easy duets side by side it all becomes clear. There are very distinct differences between the two works.

One of them is very simple and aims to start from the very beginning. It will also gradually build on technique learned in previous numbers.

The other one begins fairly simply but progresses immediately to a beginner level of proficiency. This work targets the beginner who has, essentially, already learned all basic technique for playing in First Position.

Hugo Schlemüller’s Op. 54 “First Pieces for the Young Cellist” are numbers meant to help the student get acquainted with the cello on the most basic of levels. It gently eases the learner into the knowledge of strings, notes/fingerings, bow strokes, and string crossings. He always focuses on just a few basic concepts in each number.

For example:
  1. Open strings but only two strings
  2. String crossings but only on open strings
  1. Introduces fingering of the left hand, only two fingers at first
  2. Only separate bows

And it builds like this with each subsequent number. It also is worth mentioning that each piece is musically conceived. They have some rather beautiful moments and could easily be used in performance.

Sebastian Lee’s Op. 101 “First Steps in Cello Playing” begins with two simple numbers but quickly builds in difficulty and involvement. The simplicity of these numbers is relative. It is definitely more appropriate for a beginner who has already learned how to get around the instrument.

The progression:
  1. Begins with some open strings but includes easy fingering
  2. String crossing on fingerings not just open strings
  3. Rapid note passages in eighth notes.
  4. Slurs using unequal note values
  5. Jumping across two strings
Continuing on:
  1. Slurring on the same string
  2. Slurs across strings
  3. Accidentals — knowledge of switching between finger 2 and 3

It is clear that Lee intends this to be etude work for an upper beginner. This set of pieces is certainly study oriented. There is little of musical interest. Although it can be interesting to study any listener is unlikely to drift off into a dreamy muse of thoughts as they might in some of the Schlemüller selections.

Both Works: Used in Succession

These two works could be used successively. First, introduce the instrument with H. Schlemüller’s Op. 54. After having achieved a certain level of facility the student might begin using Lee’s Op. 101.

If worked on together the student would certainly gain a facility and knowledge of technique that would lay a good foundation.