The 250th Birthday of Bernhard Heinrich Romberg

Bernhard Heinrich Romberg (baptized 13 November 1767, Dinklage – 13 August 1841, Hamburg) was a German cellist and composer.

Bernhard Romberg played in concerts in Münster at the young age of seven together with his cousin who was the same age, Andreas Romberg (1767–1821), who played violin. They toured together throughout Europe, making stops in the Netherlands (1776), Frankfurt am Main (1782), and Paris (1784 and 1785). While in France, Bernhard Romberg became acquainted with the works of Joseph Haydn and operas by Christoph Willibald Gluck.

Until around 1795, the lives of the cousins ran nearly parallel. The two Rombergs performed as a quartet with Franz Anton Ries (violin) and Ludwig van Beethoven (viola) in Vienna in 1796. Their paths parted in 1799. Bernhard Romberg went on tour to England, Portugal and Spain, taught at the Conservatoire in Paris, and became a member of the Royal Court Orchestra in Berlin. In 1820, he moved to Hamburg, where he lived until his death in 1841.

Bernhard Romberg composed operas, symphonies, and in particular chamber music which he was able to perform when he was on tour. His Méthode de Violoncelle (Paris: Lemoine, 1839), A complete Theoretical & Practical School for the Violoncello (London: Boosey, 1839) and Violoncell-Schule (Berlin: Trautwein, 1840) are staples in cello lessons even today.

Many of Romberg's works can be found in the RISM online catalog. Among the over 400 records are several compositions that he wrote together with his cousin Andreas. It also comes to light that Romberg was a businessman of sorts because almost all of his compositions were published in several editions during his lifetime. Breitkopf and Peters are notable publishers of his music.

A collection of historical printed music containing music by the Romberg family is preserved at the University Library in Münster. Currently 167 of the printed editions–among them many first and early editions–have been digitized and can be viewed online. Around 70 letters from Romberg's extensive correspondence have also been digitized and you can view his letters to the Leipzig publishers Carl Friedrich Peters and Ambrosius Kühnel.

Image: Bernhard Heinrich Romberg, Le bal masqué for cello and orchestra (Vienna: Tobias Haslinger ca. 1836),  Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Münster (D-MÜu AA 932-1_2; RISM ID no. 991008830).


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