Notes and Editorial Reviews
Suite for Cello and Piano.
3 Stücke. Im Walde.
Variations on a Theme by Paganini
Wendy Warner (vc); Eileen Buck (pn)
ÇEDILLE 111 (79:30)
David Popper (1843–1913) was one of the great cello virtuosos and pedagogues of the 19th century. He was a favorite of Liszt and Hans von Bülow, and under the latter’s baton he premiered Robert Volkmann’s A-Minor Cello Concerto with the Berlin
Philharmonic in 1864. For a short period, 1868 to 1870, he was a member of the prestigious Hellmesberger Quartet, an ensemble that was to play an important role in advancing the string quartets of Beethoven and Brahms. Recommended by Liszt, Popper joined the faculty of the string department at the newly opened Budapest Conservatory. But perhaps most memorably, in 1886, along with violinist Jen? Hubay, Popper founded the Budapest String Quartet. He and Hubay also performed chamber music with Brahms, giving the first performance of Brahms’s C-Minor Piano Trio, op. 101. As a composer, Popper, like many other great virtuoso instrumentalists before him, wrote a considerable volume of music, virtually all of it for his own instrument. He also published a collection of 40 etudes under the title of
High School of Cello Playing
, a teaching method similar to Kreutzer’s famous
42 Etudes or Caprices for Violin.
Of the three Popper works on this disc, only
appears to have an alternative recording, which is surprising considering the fairly large number of his works that are listed on other available CDs. The Suite for Cello and Piano, op. 69, is by any reckoning a full-blown, four-movement sonata, with the first movement clearly a sonata-allegro, even unto the repeat of its exposition. And, at over 27 minutes, there’s nothing diminutive about it. Brahms has to count as a significant influence, especially in the first movement. But others make their presence felt as well. I’m thinking of the cello sonatas by Anton Rubinstein and Franz Xaver Scharwenka. The last movement of the Suite is a real roller-coaster ride; a technical
tour de force
passages, it nonetheless slows down for some beautiful melodic interludes.
op. 11, are strongly reminiscent of Schumann’s
for clarinet and piano, which are often appropriated by cellists. The first of the set, titled
(“Dedication”) is especially striking, rising to an impassioned climax of great beauty. Schumann again comes to the fore in Popper’s
(“In the Forest”). In this case, the piece really is a suite and not a sonata by another name. The movements are six in number, each being a charming, salon-like illustrative sketch.
If Popper was one of the greatest cellists of the 19th century, surely Gregor Piatigorsky (1903–1976) was one of the most celebrated of the 20th. And here, to add to the list of works based on the final death trap in Paganini’s 24 caprices for solo violin—works by Liszt, Schumann, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Boris Blacher, Lutos?awski, and many others—is the
Variations on a Theme by Paganini
by Piatigorsky. There are 14 variations, capped off by a Tempo di marcia, icing on the cake added by Vladimir Horowitz. I would guess the two artists played the piece together, and Horowitz couldn’t resist putting in his two cents.
Had this disc arrived a month or two sooner, there is no question but that it would have been on my 2009 Want List. All of this being rarely heard repertoire to begin with, not only is there some fantastic music on this CD, but there is playing to equal it. Wendy Warner took first prize at the 1990 Rostropovich Competition in Paris; she has since appeared in concert and recital throughout the U.S. and abroad. Her discography is still small, but I’ve no doubt that after this latest recording her phone will be ringing off the hook with offers. Her accompanist, Eileen Buck, is wonderful as well; but she can be heard in a more substantive role for piano in her recording, also with Warner, of works by Hindemith. Let’s face it; the works on this disc belong to the cellist. Urgently recommended.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Im Walde, Op. 50 by David Popper
Eileen Buck (Piano),
Wendy Warner (Cello)
Written: by 1882; Austria
Length: 22 Minutes 25 Secs.
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