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Popper: Cello Concertos

Naxos 8.573930
Recording Date: 
21-22 Nov 2017
Recording Venue: 
Philharmonie, Pardubice/CZ
March 2019

I am very happy that it worked out for this recording of the Popper Cello Concertos to be my 50th album release. Recording these works had been a dream of mine for a long time, and I am extremely grateful to Tecwyn Evans, Mari Kato, my new friends in the orchestra in Pardubice and of course the Naxos label for making this project possible. At the same time, Tecwyn and I created editions for the first and third concertos, as there was no score for No. 1, and no orchestral material for No. 3 available. The fourth concerto had a different challenge: It seems that no set of the original material (if it ever existed) has survived. The one recording that exists (with Jiri Hosek as the soloist) turns out to be a modern orchestration, and I assume it is his own. Unfortunately, neither he nor the orchestra who he recorded it with responded to my queries. We therefore decided to stick to what is the one certain original version: that with piano. Hofmeister, who claim to have orchestra parts for hire, also decided not to respond to various messages from myself and a few conductors who I asked to inquire.

This is Popper at his best: No. 1 is clearly the work of a very young person, writing an extremely difficult solo part for himself for best possible show-off. In the E Minor Concerto, it is quite obvious that he learnt from that experience, and it is much more cello-friendly, even if it is by no means an "easy" piece. The small, but charming one-movement third concerto is a real gem and should be standard repertoire for every cello student. And No. 4 is ... well, the fourth concerto. I would be curious to see what he would have done in the orchestra parts, but I doubt that it would have turned this rather strange four-movement work into a masterpiece ... Although it has its moments, I feel that it does not quite reach the level of the other three works, which are after all the showpieces of the greatest cellist of the 19th century.

Happy belated 175th birthday, Mr P!