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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, January 2018

POPPER, D.: Hohe Schule des Violoncello-Spiels (High School of Cello Playing) (Rummel) PMR0085
POPPER, D.: High School of Cello Playing, Op. 73 (Yablonsky) 8.557718-19

Both Rummel and Yablonsky are admirably equipped musicians but a side-by-side comparison shows consistently that the latter is the more incisive performer. The timings suggest this rather bluntly.

Sensible and sensitive though Rummel remains—and he was something of a pioneer in exploring Popper’s music on a wide canvas at the time—it’s to the more extrovert and athletic performance by Yablonsky that I would turn. © 2018 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, April 2009

…some very exciting cello playing and some very interesting music which, whilst designed to strengthen the technique of the player, was bold and well written in its own right. Keith Anderson, in his fine note in the booklet, introduces each study to us, telling us what it was designed to do—number 1 is a “study in triplets, to be played with a loose wrist at the nut, slightly staccato”, while number 32, to take another study at random, “contrasts legato with bowed staccato in its continuing semiquaver motion”…I really enjoyed these miniatures—only six of them exceed three minutes in duration—and Yablonsky plays them as if they are real music. Which they are!

Jed Distler, February 2009

The Bohemian cellist and pedagogue David Popper (1843–1913) wrote prolifically and quite effectively for his instrument. His magnum opus, the High School of Cello Playing Op. 73, is a collection of 40 solo etudes that add up to a veritable bible of Romantic cello technique. Although the pieces are designed for students to overcome specific challenges contained in solo and orchestral repertoire, they are more inventive and melodically attractive than their didactic aims suggest. I’d go so far as to say that you can listen to the studies in large stretches, or even all 40 in a single sitting, without getting bored. Perhaps this is as much due to the cellist as the composer.

Dmitry Yablonsky commands the technique and taste to play the Popper etudes like music rather than mere exercises. Listen to his elegant, unflappable handling of No. 7’s perpetual motion writing in all registers. Notice how easily he dispatches No. 13’s cruelly exposed octaves and double notes. Also note the veiled beauty Yablonsky brings to No. 28’s high-lying passagework, and the perfect poise with which he articulates No. 37’s relentless mordents. These are but a few examples that attest to Yablonsky’s mastery. Given that Martin Rummel’s pioneering boxed set devoted to Popper’s complete etudes is not easy to locate and is relatively expensive, Yablonsky and Naxos pretty much have the field to themselves. Highly recommended.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2009

In the forty studies contained in the ‘High School of Cello Playing’, David Popper sets out a complete compendium of the technical requirements for a high level command of the instrument.

Though completed in 1905 the work by the Bohemian–born pedagogue comes from the era of Paganini and Liszt, each study a searching test of various techniques, his own brilliance as a cellist aware of its possibilities. For the listener it offers a series of virtuoso showpieces, though it should be sampled rather than played through to avoid an eventual feeling of fatigue exceeding that of the performer. Not only does it require fantastic left–hand dexterity, but that has to be linked with impeccable intonation or it soon descends into an almost farcical mess. Then you have to have an immaculate bowing technique to provide the smooth sounds Popper often demands. Of course the benefit of recording is the ability to patch until you have them just right, the work here in the hands of the much experienced Moscow–born Dmitry Yablonsky, who started out at the age of five as a child prodigy ending his studies in New York as a pupil of Aldo Parisot and Zara Nelsova. The recording does give a close scrutiny of his instrument.

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