David Popper - Romantic Cello Showpieces / Kliegel, Et Al

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The name of David Popper generally is known only to cellists, all of whom have had to struggle through his book of Etudes. The rest of the world's exposure to his music most likely consists of the Hungarian Rhapsody and one or two other showpieces, which usually are performed with just cello and piano. This disc of no less than nine different pieces shows Popper to be a gifted Romantic melodist and skilled orchestrator. Popper was pretty much the Rostropovich of the 19th century, and he wrote these works to show off his own virtuoso talents. Maria Kliegel is nearly always up to the challenges these works present, however extreme, and it is a treat to hear them performed with the originally-intended full orchestral accompaniment.

The suite Im Walde is a colorful set of pastoral scenes interspersed with a dark "Gnome's Dance" and a Strauss-like waltz. Kliegel's solid tone is not as big as that of today's superstars, but the Naxos engineers have placed her just a bit forward in the recording to maintain the balance. The Hungarian Rhapsody has appeared on many cello recital discs, but the only available versions with orchestra are some early Rostropovich recordings and an even earlier disc with Emannuel Feuermann. This work is more challenging technically than musically, so Kliegel holds her own, and for most listeners the modern sound will surely be preferable to that on the older recordings.

The rest of the pieces vary in quality from the gypsy-like Once in Fairer Days to the flashy Spinning Song. One nice addition is the Requiem for three cellos and orchestra, again only previously available with piano accompaniment. The full score brings out the emotion in the music, and Caroline Stinson and Johann Ludwig are admirable partners. The Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia plays very well throughout, and Gerhard Markson is a sensitive accompanist. The recording's somewhat limited dynamic range doesn't quite bring out the more brilliant moments, and the sound of the cello isn't as full as it could be. At budget price, though, even the casual cello fan will find this a good buy, and there is plenty to please lovers of late-19th century German Romantic music.
--David Preiser, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8554657

  • UPC: 636943465721

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: David Popper

  • Conductor: Gerhard Markson

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia

  • Performer: Caroline Stinson, Johann Ludwig, Maria Kliegel