Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Grutzmacher was born on March 1, 1832 in Dessau, but spent most of his life in Dresden. His father, a member of the Ducal band, was his first teacher; then he took lessons from Karl Drechsler, the first violoncellist at the same chapel and one of the best pupils of Dotzauer, whose playing was acclaimed far and wide for its purity of sound, perfection of the finishing graces, and excellent musical taste. Under his guidance Grutzmacher became such an accomplished cellist that at the age of eight he made his first public appearance, and in 1848 began his professional musical career in one of Leipzig's orchestras. After a short while, he took part in the Gewandhaus-and Euterpaconcerts, in one of them making his debut as a soloist in a performance of Variations by Franchomme (1849).
The talented cellist soon attracted the attention of the celebrated violinist Ferdinand David, concertmaster at the Gewandhaus and Mendelssohn's associate in the development of Leipzig musical life. David took the initiative of nominating the 17-year-old Grutzmacher principal cellist of the Gewandhaus violoncello section. Julius Ritz, the follower of Mendelssohn's traditions who held a very high opinion of Grutzmacher's talent, headed the glorious orchestra at the time. For several years the cellist played in the David Quartet.
The young cellist's popularity grew rapidly, and when in 1850 soloist Bernhard Cossmann, professor of the conservatoire and the leading pupil of Kummer, left Leipzig for Weimar, Grutzmacher succeeded him.
Among his many appearances in the Gewandhaus deserving special mention is his part in the performance of Anton Rubinstein's Trio Op. 15 with the composer and Ferdinand David in December 1854 and of his Trio Op. 52 with the same musicians, in the autumn of 1857. Alexander Serov often heard Grutzmacher in the Gewandhaus concerts in 1859 in an ensemble with Hans Bulow and Ferdinand David, specifically when they played Schubert's B-flat Major Trio.
During Karl Davydov's dazzling debut in Leipzig in 1859, (he played his B Minor Concerto with the Gewandhaus orchestra, Julius Ritz conducting) Grutzmacher met the Russian cellist, whom he regarded with reverence and from whom he later frequently sought advice.
The following year, Ritz was appointed head of the Dresden court chapel and also invited Grutzmacher there (at the Gewandhaus and the conservatoire, he was succeeded by Davydov). From that time on, Grutzmacher's musical career was totally linked with Dresden: he was concertmaster of the court orchestra and professor at the conservatoire, and often performed as a soloist and chamber musician. For many years he headed the Dresden Musical Society.
Grutzmacher appeared successfully in different towns of Germany, Austria, Italy, England, Holland, Scandinavia and Switzerland, as well as in Russia (1878 and 1884). In St. Petersburg at the end of January 1878, he played the concerto by Raff (A. Rubinstein was conducting), Mendelssohn's Song without words, a romance by Schumann and a waltz by Schubert. In February, he repeated the same program in Moscow.
The outstanding features of the playing of the German violoncellist were his musicality, impeccable purity of tone, and perfect bow technique, although he was frequently rebuked for certain stiffness in his performance.
The reviews by Russian critics contained much in common with the opinions of European authors. They all described Grutzmacher as a performer with a fine command of the instrument's technique (fingerboard technique in particular), good musical taste and excelling as a chamber musician. A not forceful enough sound and restrained emotions (very moderate use of vibrato) somewhat restricted his resources as a soloist, but he still appeared, and always with success, on different European platforms.
Unlike some of the contemporary virtuosos, Grutzmacher included in his repertoire chamber sonatas by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Grieg, etc. As a cello soloist Grutzmacher played in the first performance of Richard Strauss' Don Quixote in Cologne in 1898. In 1902 he retired, and on February 23 of the following year he died in Dresden.
Grutzmacher was a gifted teacher (from 1877 he was professor at the Dresden conservatoire). Among his pupils were his younger brother, Leopold Grutzmacher, his nephew, Friedrich Grutzmacher, Emil Hegar, Bruno Wilfert, Friedrich Hilpert, Johann Klingenberg, Wilhelm Fitzenhagen and Hugo Becker. The fruitful activity of these and many other Grutzmacher pupils greatly helped spread the best principles of the Dresden school, which tried to combine perfect technique and musicality of playing, to free the concert repertoire of drawing-room compositions, to unite solo, chamber and orchestral playing, to bring teaching and practical requirements as close together as possible, and to develop rational methods.
But not everything mentioned above did in fact materialize in the person of the Dresden school representatives; other schools of the 19th century, the Russian (Davydov) and French particularly, continued its trends, making more consistent and progressive contributions to the development of the art of the violoncello. This does not detract from the practical significance of the Dresden school and of its principal representatives- Dotzauer, Kummer and Grutzmacher.
Grutzmacher wrote several instrumental works, among them a concert overture, a quartet and a trio; three concertos for cello and orchestra (A Minor, G Major, E Minor) and some pieces (Hungarian Fantasia, Variations on an original theme, and romances) were popular in his time. The series Pieces for amateurs featured Grutzmacher's fantasias on themes from the operas Fidelio by Beethoven, Norma by Bellini, Wilhelm Tell by Rossini, Robert the Devil and Les Huguenots by Meyerbeer, and Tannhduser and Lohengrin by Wagner. Today these works really do not have any value. Only his concertos (E Minor Op. 46, in particular) might be used to a certain extent in teaching.
His Twenty-four etudes (Op. 38) have retained greater significance; varied in technique, they were written with the excellent knowledge of the nature of the instrument's expressive and technical resources. The first book of the collection (twelve etudes) is the most widely used today, though the second one, which has become a bibliographical rarity, is equally interesting and as far as virtuoso technique is concerned ' even more complicated and useful. Here is an example from the cadenza to etude No. 24-an exceptional case of the simultaneous use of double artificial harmonics, the third and the fourth:
Among Grutzmacher's other teaching compositions are Twelve etudes (Op. 72) and Daily exercises (Op. 67), later re-edited by Hugo Becker. They are also used to some extent in teaching today.
He introduced a new form of the teaching material -"Selected etudes from the works of the celebrated old masters of the violoncello." Berteau, Boccherini, Duport, Breval, Romberg, Stiastny and others-with additional performing instructions (fingering, bowing). The merit of the collection is that instead of schematic and formal exercises for building up performing skills there were useful works or fragments from them, which could interest a pupil from the artistic point of view as well.
Grutzmacher's work as an editor was of special significance, for it initiated the rebirth of many violoncello classical works that had already been forgotten and were preserved only in manuscripts. Outstanding works like the suites for cello solo by J.S. Bach, six sonatas and the Concerto B flat Major by Boccherini, and Haydn's Concerto in D Major were published in his editions. They appeared at a time when superficial pieces of sheer virtuosity were the dominant concert works, thereby enriching the repertoire of the cello soloist. In 1891 in Leipzig, a vast series of classical works for the cello, entitled Hoche Schule des Violoncellspiels appeared. The violoncello concerts (A Minor) by C.P.E. Bach, Boccherini (B flat Major) and Duport (E Minor), the sonata (A Minor) by Geminiani and other works were included. Additionally to Grutzmacher's credit is the. fact that he introduced to the cello repertoire gamba sonatas that he himself edited, including those by J.S. Bach, Handel, C.P.E. Bach and the gamba concerto by Tartini. He also edited all of Romberg's concertos, as well as all the cello works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Schumann. At the end of the last and beginning of the current century they were often used as concert pieces and in teaching.
With all the artistic value of Grutzmacher's editions of the classical sonatas and 18th century concertos, it must be pointed out that in trying to "adjust" this music to the concert practice of his time, he often made vital deviations from the original, and in the piano parts which he composed according to the part of the thorough bass, he frequently violated the style of the composition. This is true primarily of his first edition of the Suites for the Violoncello Solo by Bach that appeared in Leipzig circa 1866. The book title said: "The new edition, revised and arranged for the concert performances by Friedrich Grutzmacher." The Bach text was in some places substantially changed, "embellished" by chords and ornaments; voices and virtuoso strokes, etc., were added. The Sixth Suite was transposed from D Major to G Major, and in the Courante from the Fifth Suite, a bass part was added in the form of an ascending and descending scale-like progression.
Grutzmacher's second edition of Bach's suites published in Leipzig circa 1900 attests to the evolution of his artistic views and tastes.
Here he rejected any changes of the original text. The title page bore the notice: Original-Ausgabe. The text is presented by the editor according to the edition of the Bach Society (1879); ornaments added previously appear in brackets. The editor only inserted detailed performing instructions (fingering and bowing) reflecting his views on methods and his comprehension of musical phrasing.
Despite all the criticism of Grutzmacher's editions of old music, it still must be admitted that he was one of the first (if not the very first) who tried to interpret Bach's suites in the concert aspect, and not as etudes. He wrote cadenzas to-the concertos by Boccherini (B flat Major), Tartini (D Major, gamba) and Haydn (D Major, "little") which are played even today, and which attest to Grutzmacher's extensive knowledge of the instrument.
Grutzmacher's interest in the artistic values of pre-classical, classical and romantic violoncello music, as well his performing style are evidence of the so-called "academic" tendency in the history of the art of the cello that evolved in the final quarter of the 19th century as a reaction to the degeneration of the romantic virtuoso trend.