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Sonate dramatique « Titus et Bérénice » pour violoncelle et piano (Rita Strohl)




The score is headed by the following synopsis: “Titus, who passionately loved Berenice and who was widely thought to have promised to marry her, sent her from Rome, in spite of himself and in spite of herself, in the early days of his empire.” (Preface to Racine’s Bérénice).

1st movement: “Titus’s uncertainty… his passion… his hope to see Rome relent, though Rome, ‘by a law that nothing can change / accepts with its blood no other blood’ (Racine).” – 2nd movement: “Berenice’s apartments. Her ladies attempt to divert her with their songs and dances.” 3rd movement: “Berenice knows all… In spite of his love, Titus sacrifices her to the empire. Berenice: ‘I am restless, I run, listless, despondent / My strength abandons me, and rest kills me’ (Racine).” – 4th movement: “The dreadful moment approaches, the separation will occur. Love scene – heart-breaking. Titus: ‘This day surpasses all. Never, I confess / Were you loved with such tenderness / And never…’ Berenice: ‘You maintain that you love me / And nevertheless I leave and you order me to do so! Ah, cruel one! For pity’s sake, show me less love!’ (Racine).”


The special feature of this work published in 1892 is that it combines the traditional genre of the sonata with a narrative process. The “dramatic” score tells the story of Titus and Berenice, based on quotations from Racine’s tragedy Bérénice(1670). Each of its movements nevertheless depicts a stage in the narrative rather than a continuous action. The work is distinguished by its contrasts and great expressive range, obtained through ample textures and varied styles. It is dedicated to the cellist Charles Furet. The mysterious introduction is followed by a Moderato displaying a fine melody developed at length. This gives way to a dark, jerky Molto movimento. With its rhythmic vitality, lightness and mysterious atmosphere, the Vivace second movement evokes a Mendelssohnian scherzo. The central section features an ostinato bass. After a chorale in the treble range of the piano, the opening section returns, altered. The third movement is a Lento, Tristamente, the lamenting mood of which is rendered by expressive chromaticisms. Gradually, the tension and intensity increase. Silence... The cello declaims a “recitative” that brings back the song of lament. With its flow of arpeggios on the piano and its continuous melodic line on the cello, the fourth movement, Allegro molto movimento, unleashes a great dramatic force. The Ben cantando section is less breathless, with the piano playing a countermelody against the cello. After violent contrasts, the opening theme returns and introduces the Molto appassionato finale, with its exacerbated expression.

    Person - 1
  • STROHL, Rita (1865-1941)
  • Theme - 1
  • Instruments à cordes – L’École française de violoncelle