The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Wendy Warner (cello) Eileen Buck (piano)
Composer: Popper, Piatigorsky

Focusing on the tradition of the virtuoso–composer, Rostropovich pupil Wendy Warner has compiled an intriguing programme, half of which is devoted to original works by the Hungarian cellist David Popper. Although he is better known for his rather dull studies, this disc reminds us that he actually wrote some attractive cello music. The op.11 set of pieces is especially memorable, with ‘Widmung’ in particular offering some impressive lyrical material, which Warner conveys beautifully. Equally, she produces a very imaginative rendition of the cameo forest scenes of Im Walde, where the fantastic ‘Gnomentanz’ receives a tremendous performance. Although the large-scale Suite op.69 develops less distinctive musical material, Warner nonetheless characterises each of its four movements very effectively, with a beautifully elegant minuet and a suitably menacing Ballade.

Warner’s technical prowess is put to the test in Piatigorsky’s Paganini Variations, based on the familiar caprice and wittily portraying some of the artists, such as Casals, Hindemith and Szigeti, with whom he worked. As in the rest of the disc, the performance sizzles with virtuosity, with Warner’s full and well-honed sound captured incisively by a clear recording.

Altogether a brilliant set, treated to an absolutely electric performance from both artists.

Joanne Talbot