Popper Complete Transcriptions for Violoncello and Piano Paladino Music

David Popper (1843-1913)
Complete Transcriptions for Violoncello and Piano
Martin Rummel (cello)
Mari Kato (piano)
rec. 2022/23, Schloss Weinberg, Kefermarkt, Austria
Paladino Music PMR0128 [2 CDs: 139]

Prague-born cellist and composer David Popper’s vast reputation has only really survived into our time amongst cellists. In his time he was widely respected, gaining recommendations from Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow, performing across Europe and Russia with his wife, Liszt pupil Sophie Mentor and giving premieres including the cello concerto by Robert Volkmann (1815-1883) and the C minor piano trio of Brahms with violinist Jenö Hubay and the composer himself at the piano. From 1886 he taught at the Budapest Conservatory and played in the Budapest string quartet with Hubay. 

Paladino music has already released several CDs of his original music including the Suites (PMR0007 review), études op.76 (PMR0084), High School of Violoncello playing (PMR0085 review) and the first volume of the complete works for cello and piano (PMR0109). This latest double CD brings together all of his transcriptions. Many of these were published by André under the general title Perles Musicales, appearing in print from around 1883 until 1912 though some, such as Schubert’s Du bist die Ruh, may have been written during his time in Löwenberg as chamber virtuoso to the court of Prince von Hohenzollern-Hechingen, a post he held from 1867 to 1869. With the focus very much on the lyrical Popper explores music from the baroque to contemporaries such as Adolf Jensen and Pyotr Tschaikowsky with transcriptions of opera, oratorio, song, piano and orchestral. The baroque items are richly romantic, hardly surprising for these late 19th century works and include some scrunchy passing notes in Caro mio ben. Cellist Martin Rummel writes in his detailed booklet notes that the Menuetto pastorale by Campione, a work whose origin remains unknown, brings to his mind an image of a ballet in ski boots.

Several familiar romantic items solos are perfect for transcription such as Chopin’s E flat nocturne, something of a magnet for arrangements and Rubinstein’s Melodie in F which becomes Melodie in D in Popper’s transcription if not in name. More of Popper’s beloved Schubert songs are included as are three Schumann items though in this series Träumerei actually in appears in this series in an arrangement by his friend, the russian cello virtuoso Carl Davidoff . Popper did make an arrangement of the piece but this appeared as his op.46 published by Rahter alongside Rimsky-Korsakov’s rustic May Night lullaby; the two Schumann transcriptions are similar, just a slightly fuller piano part characterising Davidoff’s version. Both cellists let the melody speak for itself though in other works Popper enriches the texture with occasional double stops, as in the second verse of Schubert’s Ave Maria which is also set an octave higher. There are some quasi-cadenza passages here and there, notably in the bridging passages of Rubinstein’s Melodie or Tschaikowsky’s Barcarolle where the composer has written an almost cello like recitative that Popper transforms into a beautiful cello solo. Less familiar names are also represented though Adolf Jensen’s shimmering Murmelndes Lüftchenmay be familiar to pianophilies from recordings by Michael Zadora or Walter Gieseking. Eugène Jámbor, or Jenö Jámbor, was an entirely new name to me; he was a colleague of Popper’s at the Budapest Academy and a student of Robert Volkmann. His nocturne has the feel of a Hungarian dance in its jaunty character. Potential candidates for the Perles Musicales are two more Schubert songs, Frühlingsglaube and Horch, horch die Lerch though ultimately, like the Rimsky-Korsakov and later Schumann, they were published as stand alone works. 

Three longer works open the recital. Popper admired Wagner’s music if not his tastes but his close friendship precluded any close ties between the two. One of Popper’s final works was an improvisation on Die Meistersinger (destined for a future release I assume) but before that he wrote a beautiful transcription of Wagner’s piano piece in C major from Das Album der Fürstin Metternich which I have to say I prefer to the original. The Romance by Svendsen is deservedly popular but among several transcriptions this is the only one I know for the cello; it transfers well, subtle double stopping an all. The most substantial work here is Hubay’s Morceau de Concert. In 1891 Hubay revised what was originally the opening movement of a planned viola concerto and Popper soon reworked this for cello, adding more music, filling out the harmonies and writing extended cadenzas, notably the opening cadenza after the piano’s brief introduction of the main theme, the theme that rises in such exultant crescendo to close the piece. He also extends the slower section un poco meno mosso creating a tranquil slow movement within the whole. Without an orchestral score to check I am working from the original piano reduction but it seems that there is much more interest in the orchestral writing, developing the dialogue with the soloist more satisfactorily. With, as far as I can discern, no current alternative recording of this or Hubay’s original viola version this release is valuable for making this attractive work available. Quite apart from that this is an admirable release; Rummel brings a vibrant tone to these pieces and Mari Kato is a sympathetic partner and they are to be commended for collecting together all of Popper’s idiomatic transcriptions.

Rob Challinor

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Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Romanze nach dem ‘Albumblatt’ (1861)
Johan S. Svendsen (1840-1911)
Romanze Op.26 (1881)
Jenö Hubay (1858-1937)
Concertstück Op.20 (c.1880-1891)
Perles Musicales
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Du bist die Ruh D.776 (1823)
Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-1736)
Nina (tre giorni)
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)
Melodie Op.3 No.1 (pub.1852)
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Nocturne in E flat Op.9 No.2 (1830-31)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) arr. Carl Davidoff (1838-1889)
Träumerei from Kinderscenen Op.15 (1838)
Pyotr Tschaikowsky (1840-1893)
Chanson sans paroles Op2. No.3 (1867)
Adolf Jensen (1837-1879)
Murmelndes Lüftchen from Op.21 No.4 (1864)
Eugène Jámbor (1853-1914)
Nocturne Op.8 No.1 (1891)
Pyotr Tschaikowsky
Chanson triste Op.40 No.2 (1878)
Robert Schumann
Abendlied Op.85 No.12 (1849)
Franz Schubert
Ave Maria D.839 (1825)
Carlo Antonio Campioni (1720-1788)
Menuetto Pastorale
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Air What shall I do? from The Dioclesian Z.627 (1690)
Tommasi Giordani (1735-1806)
Caro mio ben 
Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842)
Ave Maria 
Pyotr Tschaikowsky
Barcarolle Op.37a No.6 (1875-76)
la Perce neige Op.37a No.4 (1875-76)
Chant d’Automne Op.37a No.10 (1875-76)
George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)
Largo ombra ma fui from Xerxes HWV.40
Sarabande from Oboe Concerto No.3 HWV.287
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Aria from the Suite in D major BWV.1068 (1731)
Robert Schumann
Schlummerlied Op.124 No.26 (pub.1854)
Franz Schubert
Der Neugierige D.795 No.6 (1823)
Sei mir gegrüsst D.741 (1821-22)
Litanei auf das Fest “Aller Seelen” D.343 (1816?)
An die Musik D.547 (1817)
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847)
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges Op.34 No.2 (1835)
Reiselied Op.19a No.6 (1830)
Franz Schubert 
Frühlingsglaube D.686 (1820?)
Morgenständchen aus Shakespeares “Cymbeline” D.889 (1826)
Two transcriptions for Violoncello and Piano Op.46
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Schlummerlied from the opera May Night (1878-79)
Robert Schumann
Träumerei from Kinderscenen Op.15