Tips on Finding Cello Repertoire

Sources and references for cello and chamber-music repertoire

In my two-part article “Cellists’ Choice” (In Print, December 1999 and January 2000), I presented my view of the standard cello repertoire. While most of the selections on my list are readily available, some probably have gone out of print or might be difficult to locate. Newly published works and older ones that are still in print can be found by browsing through music stores, checking mail-order catalogs, reading magazine reviews, and surfing the Internet. However, there is also a galaxy of lesser-known but worthwhile works by important composers, original works by obscure composers, arrangements, compositions by cellists of the past, and newly composed pieces. Knowing about and tracking down this off-the-beaten-path repertoire can be a greater challenge.

Magazines reviews highlight some newly published pieces. On-line catalogs are the newest search tool—especially those of small specialized publishers. Used music and bookstores, music-school and public-library sales, sales of cellists’ personal collections, and even junk stores can yield unexpected treasures. I have stumbled across many an interesting discovery by accident, although usually I find out that something exists and then try to track it down.


A great place to begin a search for obscure repertoire, arrangements, and transcriptions is in old editions (and even new ones) where publishers lists other music they offer. Old publisher’s catalogs and mail-order catalogs, which occasionally turn up in used bookstores, may include interesting works that have gone out of print. University and conservatory music libraries are an obvious resource (don’t neglect inter-library loan!) although they may not have much in the way of arrangements or short pieces. Some important libraries have made their catalogs available and often have a photocopying arrangement for public-domain items. Library catalogs are usually more descriptive than publisher’s listings, including at least a work’s date of publication and the number of pages. Even if a collection or library does not have a comprehensive catalog that is available to the public, or an on-line search capability, the librarian still may be able to answer inquiries about specific works.

Arsis Press and Hildegard (named after the 11th-century “renaissance woman” Hildegarde von Bingen) publish concert music by female composers. Artaria Editions specializes in music of 18th-century composers, while Dominis Music is primarily devoted to the cello compositions of Rudolf Matz. HLH Music Publications is an independent edition of cello classics transcribed and edited by Paul de Jong. Another private venture, Latham Music Enterprises, publishes arrangements for cello ensemble and other string music. SeeSaw Music offers a substantial selection of contemporary solo and chamber music, including many compositions by cellist Seymour Barab.



Dutch-American cellist Willem Willecke willed his extensive library of cello and chamber music to Williams College; cellist Douglas Moore has continued to expand the collection, which includes cello ensemble music and more. The Special Collections of the Walter Clinton Jackson Library at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro houses the collections of Luigi Silva, Elizabeth Cowling, Rudolf Matz, Maurice Eisenberg, and Janos Scholz in what is certainly the world’s largest single repository of cello music. Dimitry Markevitch plans to move to the U.S. and find an institutional home for his personal library of more than 3,000 cello works, but for now he can be reached in Switzerland and his catalog is available for purchase. The Cobbett Association’s chamber-music library is temporarily unavailable for copying, but member Theo Wyatt of Merton Music has a copying service for works from his catalog of out-of-print compositions. For hard-to-find chamber music and orchestral accompaniments to concertos, try the Fleischer Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Real-estate developer Ira Brilliant’s donation of 75 Beethoven first editions to San Jose State University began what has become the largest collection of Beethoven materials outside of Europe; it includes manuscripts, early editions, and even a lock of Beethoven’s hair! And the Library of Congress remains the world’s largest library, and its vast music collection (of more than eight million items) includes everything published in the U.S. and many historically important editions and special collections.


Reference books are the best sources of information about repertoire (especially out-of-print repertoire), as many of them have detailed and informative descriptions of individual works. Unfortunately, many of the most important reference books are themselves out of print, but diligent searching can turn up copies in libraries, at used bookstores, or via mail-order book services.

Wayne Wilkins published indices for several instruments; his Index of Cello Music is a sort of miniature String-Music-in-Print focusing on the cello and chamber music, but unfortunately his plan for five-year updates never materialized. The Weigl is an exhaustive catalog of cello music up to 1929, both original works and arrangements: sonatas, concertos, suites, ètudes, and short pieces. Donald Homuth takes over from Weigl, but after a gap of 30 years. As per his description, “A Bibliography of Solo, Chamber, and Orchestral Works for the Solo Cellist,” he lists 33 years of published works for solo cello and cello with accompanying instruments, excepting studies and arrangements, but including recordings—a very valuable book. Dimitry Markevitch is currently preparing an updated version of his comprehensive work The Solo Cello.

While not specifically devoted to the cello, some books discuss sonatas or chamber music that includes the cello. Cobbett is the invaluable chamber-music reference for works published through 1929. All of the chamber works, including sonatas, of virtually every composer of any importance are listed in the first two volumes, and many are discussed at length. (Volume 3, added when Cobbett was republished, covers works up to 1963, but much more briefly. The Cobbett Association’s Chamber Music Journal, available with membership, often focuses on lesser-known composers and their works.) Arthur Cohn is not exhaustive in his listings, but he describes most of the important standard and contemporary works. Maurice Hinson, whose many excellent repertoire guides make him a familiar name to pianists, includes 40 pages of descriptions of in-print (as of 1978) cello and piano works, plus larger ensembles, and includes publishers’ addresses. Rangel-Ribeiro and Markel provide a guide to the instrumentation of chamber works for three or more instruments, sorted into pre-1800 and post-1800 sections. The two Melvin Berger books discuss the important works of their respective titles.

There are also useful books that do not focus primarily on repertoire, but do discuss it or include repertoire lists. Louis Potter grades his repertoire list by levels of difficulty and includes pedagogical works. J. Matthews, the translator of Carl Schroeder’s 1889 Handbook of Cello Playing, added a historically interesting 19th-century graded repertoire list. Elizabeth Cowling’s lists cover several categories of solo literature. In Cello Story, Dimitry Markevitch considers both solo and chamber music in the chapter “Great Moments for the Cello,” and William Pleeth includes a chapter on the Baroque cello and its music by Nona Pyron, the founder and editor of Grancino Editions. Other books discuss, or at least mention, many little-known works, and along the way provide fascinating information about the cello and its history.


There’s nothing like perusing the real thing in person, but some of the best used book and music stores have mail-order catalogs or Web sites. Cellist David Sanders’ Montagnana Books sells books, photos, and other historical printed items devoted to stringed instruments. Patrick W. Joyce specializes in books on instruments and related subjects. Dan Fog’s used-music and music-book prices depend upon the prevailing exchange rate. The Strand, New York’s largest used bookstore, will answer an inquiry within three hours and hold any book for three days. Norman Levine’s Editions has an extensive music section in its monthly catalog, but Powell’s, whose claim to be the largest bookstore in the world is probably true, has more music books, both new and used. Ars Nova, just across the street from Indiana University in Bloomington, specializes in used recordings, but also has lots of music, both new and used. Ars Antiqua also specializes in recordings but twice yearly sends out its “Rarissima” catalog of music, books, photos, and related items. I have found music for which I had been searching for years at the Music Rack, located in the San Francisco Conservatory; it carries used records as well and accepts phone, fax, and e-mail inquiries. On-line searches of independent used-book dealers’ offerings through Barnes and Noble, Alibras, Bibliofind, and 21 North Main turned up several of the books listed here—but be careful about the prices with these on-line searches: I have seen the identical book listed on different sites at $16 and $80, and a Brahms sonata, in print at $9.50, listed at $39! Also, the prices at Barnes and Noble (and perhaps some others) include a surcharge on the dealers’ list prices.

I would appreciate hearing from readers about other used-music stores. Write to Strings, PO Box 767, San Anselmo, CA 94979, or visit the All Things Strings Community discussion forums at to post your suggestions.

Good hunting!