David Popper was the so-called "Liszt of the cello", an eager violin
student who discovered, in conservatory, that there were too many violinists
and not enough cellists. By age 25 he was the principal cello player for the
Vienna Court Opera. He was a friend and chamber music partner of Brahms.
This album is an enjoyable look into his music for one, two and three
cellos, and in fact I wish there were more.
For one thing, there is duplication. Popper published the Suite Op. 16 in
two versions, one for cello and piano and the other for two cellos without
piano. They're both here, as are two march pieces with an unexplained
relationship to the suite. They sound like slower trial versions of the
finale Popper ultimately used. As much as I love that jovial finale, the
largo is the movement to get excited for, especially in the two-cello
Also present are the big Suite Op. 69 and Im Walde
, a suite that
aspires to be the cello version of one of Schumann's piano fantasies.
Highlights are the Dvorák-like round dance and a cheeky "Dance of the
Gnomes". Both these pieces recently appeared on an excellent CD by Wendy Warner
, along with the Three
Pieces, Op. 11, which are curiously absent from the new two-disc set. There
were over 45 minutes of leftover space on these CDs. Wendy Warner's
excellent, as are the various performers in this set; the one major
difference is that Warner takes the Suite's minuet much more slowly. She
also has more of a strength in soft, sweet phrases; Alexander Hülshoff is
often just a bit louder.
Rounding out the set are two works of opposite natures: the cheery
, ten minutes of pure Johann-Strauss-style delight, and
for three cellos and piano, a wordless seven-minute
lament. Alexander Hülshoff is the soloist for the Suites Opp. 16bis and 69;
Martin Rummel has solo turns in the Waltz Suite
; they combine for the two-cello pieces and are joined by Bertin
Christelbauer for the Requiem
; the pianist is Mari Kato. Everyone
plays wonderfully, and the net result is that, once again, I'm delighted to
make the acquaintance of David Popper. This is catnip for cello lovers.