Wendy Warner Plays Popper & Piatigorsky (CD review)

Popper: Suite for Cello and Piano, Three Pieces, and Im Walde; Piatigorsky: Variations on a Paganini Theme. Wendy Warner, cello; Eileen Buck, piano. Cedille CDR 90000 111.

This is one of those discs where even if you're not a classical music fan, you can still enjoy the sonic experience. It's another beautifully recorded album by Cedille's chief engineer, Bill Maylone, that makes the performers sound as though they're in the same room with you. Granted, these are duet pieces, and perhaps it's easier to capture the sound of only two instruments easier than it is to record an entire orchestra. Still, you can take nothing away from the audio, the cello and piano appearing in proper size and perspective, with appropriate air around each and a dynamic impact that places them clearly on stage before you. Very impressive.

Of course, no matter how good a disc sounds, it would be of no value if the music and performances weren't up to speed, and in both cases this album passes the test. The music comes from two composers who were primarily known for their cello playing, David Popper (1843-1913) and Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976). Popper was a mainstay of the cello world in the late nineteenth century, Piatigorsky a mainstay in the twentieth century, yet they had time to compose works for their instruments as well. Companies don't record either composer much nowadays, but maybe they should.

Popper is represented by three works: The highly romantic Suite for Cello and Piano in four movements, the collection of brief pieces called Im Walde, and three short compositions that Popper probably played together or separately as encores. Of the various Popper works on the disc, it's Im Walde that stands out. Its title means "In the Forest," and its six movements evoke forest settings and moods. Popper originally arranged it for cello and orchestra, and here we have it for cello and piano, which makes it even more intimate in its portraiture. The movements range from rhapsodic to lyrical to intense to nostalgic and just about everything in between.

Piatigorsky is represented by his Variations on a Paganini Theme, which he wrote in 1946 as a series of whimsical takes on his musical friends. He wrote and arranged each of the work's fifteen Paganini theme variations in the style of one of the world's great musicians of the time: Pablo Casals, Paul Hindemith, Yehudi Menuhin, Nathan Milstein, Jascha Heifetz, Vladimir Horowitz, etc., even himself. Although the variations themselves tend to become more than a little repetitious, the idea behind them is certainly imaginative.

Needless to say, cellist Wendy Warner and pianist Eileen Buck play all the music with loving enthusiasm and expert articulation. Even though Popper and Piatigorsky intended this music to highlight the cello, the way Warner and Buck play them, it's not exactly one instrument accompanying the other as much as two instruments almost equally sharing the spotlight. Warner and Buck make an excellent team, and Cedille engineer Maylone captures them in perfect unity. It's a lovely recording all the way around.


1 comment:

  1. wow! i think i found the one ,i amloking for, perfectly suits my bill


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa