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Donald R. Vroom
American Record Guide, June 2001

"[Kliegel's] tone is warm and full, and she is expressive but not heavy-handed. She sounds more gypsy and abandoned in the Hungarian Rhapsody than any other cellist I've heard (Meneses does it, too). The 8-minute piece is every bit as appealing as anything Liszt wrote under the same title. The Hungarian Rhapsody and the Suite (Im Walde-In the Forest) are the best pieces here. Popper wrote melodic music -very pleasant stuff in a typical romantic vein."

Adrian Smith
MusicWeb International, April 2001

Performance: 4 STARS Sound: 4 STARS

"Cellists, though probably few others, will recognise the name of the Prague-born composer David Popper (1843-1913). A virtuoso cellist himself, he wrote extensively for the instrument, though today his works are rarely heard in the concert hall.

"In the 15 tracks on this disc, most of them no longer than four minutes in duration, he reveals a sure mastery of the cello and a fluent idiom redolent of Schumann and Brahms. Miniatures such as Gnomes' Dance, Papillon and Gavotte are deftly characterised salon pieces. The jolly Round Dance (one of the six movements of Im Walde) displays both charm and vitality. On the other hand the unusually-scored Requiem for three cellos and orchestra (in which Maria Kliegel is joined by Caroline Stinson and Johann Ludwig) shows a deeper and darker side to his musical language, and Spinning Song and the Liszt-inspired Hungarian Rhapsody (for a time he was married to Sophie Menter, Liszt's most famous woman pupil) are vehicles for fiery virtuosity which the soloist exploits with consummate ease. Her warmth of tone and agile fingerwork are sustained throughout this pleasant if undemanding disc. ...The sound quality is good and the balance between soloist and orchestra excellent."

Geoffrey Norris
The Daily Telegraph (Australia), March 2001

"These are by no means empty cello showpieces, but are works of captivating personality and ardour composed by one of the 19th century's great cello virtuosos. David Popper (1843-1913) was to the cello what Liszt was to the piano, expanding the instrument's technique but at the same time delving deep into its expressive potential. The origins of most of the pieces on this budget-priced CD lie in the salon, though the suite Im Walde for cello and orchestra is a major work, full of beauty, enchantment and, in Kliegel's hands, deft articulation and ravishing lyricism. Joined by Caroline Stinson and Johann Ludwig, she interprets the comparatively well-known Requiem for three cellos as a rapt, heart-rending meditation that send shivers down the spine. Of the remaining short studies and character pieces, each one is a gem, and Kliegel's playing is a constant delight."

David Preiser, February 2001

"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. ...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."

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