POPPER Complete Suites for Cello
David Popper (1843-1913) was a Bohemian cellist whose work as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher was lauded all over Europe during his lifetime. Since his death, though, it has been largely forgotten, which may have something to do with the substantive part of his music being more defined by the cult of personality that followed him wherever he went than the depth of the music itself.
Popper’s work is largely Classical in style – more Haydn than the Brahms or even Sarasate that it probably ought to have been. Although the cello works are a combination of either studies for aspiring cellists or virtuoso pieces for display purposes, fundamentally they are most at home in the salon. Therefore, they transport you more to a place and time than enmire you in musical bulk. The pieces show what consistent sonorities the instrument is capable of when written for by a cellist: there are whole passages driven solely by its tone, and many sections in the suites for two cellos where Popper writes into the music sonorous effects where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
Given that the pieces are largely insubstantial, they are played here by Alexander Hülshoff, Martin Rummel and Bertin Christelbauer with great elegance and poise as well as, when necessary, great humour and a very appealing avuncular manner. The general sentimentality that could seep into a performance seeking to make more than necessary of these pieces is kept on a back burner throughout the disc, only being brought to the fore for the one piece to which it is due – the final Requiem for three cellos.