Carl August Friedrich Westenholtz, the first court kapellmeister at the residency of Ludwigslust (1767–1789), in his compositions favoured those genres that made up the repertoire of the sacred concerts established by Duke Friedrich der Fromme (Frederick the Pious); his main contributions were chorale and psalm cantatas. His own compositions in these genres – which in a contemporary document were labelled „westenholzsche Musiken“ – were considered a significant mark of these concerts. Instrumental music, on the other hand, played only a subordinate role in his oeuvre, and in fact there are only two works that reflect a certain artistic ambition and originality: a solo concerto for harpsichord and one for violoncello.
Nothing is known about the time of origin and purpose of these two very different works, but at least for the cello concerto we may assume that Westenholtz, who was a trained cellist, wrote the piece either for himself or for his teacher: Franz Xaver Woschitka (1728–1796), a native of Vienna, in his time was widely renowned for his virtuosic skills and from 1750 to 1765 was employed as principal cellist at the court chapel of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Woschitka became the teacher of the young Westenholtz, who had been accepted as a chorister (Kapellknabe) at the court of Schwerin in 1749 and after taking lessons in singing and composition from the kapellmeister Adolph Carl Kunzen was appointed as a court singer (tenor) as early as 1753.
If these assumptions are correct, the cello concerto would have to be regarded as a comparatively early work, written most probably even before the Christmas cantata Die Hirten bey der Krippe zu Bethlehem, which in 1765 earned the barely thirty-year old his first noticeable success as a composer at Hamburg.
The cello concerto gains its specific compositional profile and particular musical charm through the manner in which the solo instrument and tutti strings collaborate: Rather than presenting a more or less virtuosic solo line that is clearly distinguished from the tutti, the “Violoncello obligato” (this is the term used for the solo part in the autograph score) stays embedded in the musical texture of the full ensemble throughout the piece. As a predominant formal element in the solo sections the cello takes up the ritornello theme, which it presents in an adapted solo version, supported by the first violin in thirds or sixths; thus the violin in a way becomes the duet partner of the solo cello. There are only a few instances when the solo line briefly plays swift figurations, but mostly its character is melodious, befitting the serenely pastoral, carefree musicianship expressing the character of this work.
(Karl Heller, translation by Stephanie Wollny)