Karl Davydov

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Karl Davydov
Background information
Birth nameKarl Yulievich Davydov
Карл Юльевич Давыдов
Born15 March 1838 [ O.S. 3 March 1838]
Flag of Russia.svg Goldingen, Courland Governorate, Russian Empire
Died26 February 1889 [ O.S. 14 February 1889] (age 51)
Moscow, Imperial Russia
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Cellist, composer, conductor, pedagogue
Instruments Violoncello
Years activefl. ca. 1850–1889

Karl Yulievich Davydov (Russian : Карл Юльевич Давыдов; 15 March [ O.S. 3 March] 1838 26 February [ O.S. 14 February] 1889) was a Russian cellist of great renown during his time, and described by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky as the "czar of cellists". He was also a composer, mainly for the cello.



Davydov was the son of a physician from Courland Governorate. His elder brother August Davydov was a noted mathematician and educator, and his nephew Alexei Davidov also became cellist and composer and also a businessman.

In his youth Davydov studied mathematics at Moscow State University, and then pursued a career as a composer, studying with Moritz Hauptmann at the Leipzig Conservatory. He became a full-time cellist in 1850 while continuing to compose in his spare time. He later became head of the St Petersburg Conservatory. He had many students, including Aleksandr Verzhbilovich.

In 1870 Count Wilhorsky, a patron of the arts, presented Davydov with a Stradivarius cello constructed in 1712. This cello, now known as the Davidov Stradivarius , was owned by Jacqueline du Pré until her death and is currently on loan to cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

He intended to write an opera on the subject of Mazeppa. Viktor Burenin wrote a libretto for this purpose in 1880, but when Davydov proved unable to find the time to compose, Burenin offered the libretto to Tchaikovsky.

Although closely associated with Tchaikovsky, Karl Davydov was not related to the Davydov clan into which Tchaikovsky's sister Alexandra married. Davydov died in Moscow on 26 February 1889. Anton Arensky dedicated his first piano trio to Davydov's memory.

Cello Transcriptions

Davydov (also appeared in different spellings: Davidoff / Davidov) transcribed and arranged Chopin's solo piano works for violoncello and piano accompaniment. Transcription albums of Walzer and Mazurkas published by Breitkopf & Härtel. Another transcription album is a selection of Nocturnes and others solo piano works published by Edition Peters.

Works with Opus number

  • No. 1, Sonntag Morgen (Sunday Morning)
  • No. 2, Am Springbrunnen (At the Fountain)
  • No. 3, An der Wiege
  • No. 4, Abenddämmerung