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COMPOSERS: Duport; Piatti; Popper
ALBUM TITLE: Capriccioso
WORKS: Duport: Etude No. 7 (Allegro); Etude No. 8 (Adagio cantabile); Piatti: 12 Capricci, Op. 25; Capriccio sulla ‘Niobe’ di Giovanni Pacini, Op. 22; Popper: Etude No. 29
PERFORMER: Antonio Meneses (cello)


For string players, the sheer technical ingenuity on display here is amazing. The mind strains to figure out by what sleights of hand Antonio Meneses’s fingers and bow can be doing so many different things at the same time in these quietly fiendish, richly polyphonic miniatures.

Meneses was inspired to make this recording after witnessing a series of ‘heartless’ renditions of Piatti’s Caprices at a major competition. If anyone can persuade us of the beauties of these 12 studies it may be this consummate virtuoso. He traverses this compendium of cellistic technique with soulful tenderness, bringing out the ‘sense of loneliness’, as he perceives it, in No. 3, a study in octaves and thirds, and finding a sweeping grandeur sufficient for three cellos in the Andante religioso No. 2. Nothing is forced, every tone rings true: balance, transparency and musical line are to the fore.

In Piatti’s capriccio on a theme from Pacini’s Niobe (Op. 21) the cello does a fairly spectacular job of being both diva and orchestra, though it’s at least five minutes too long. Decorous but dull etudes by Duport top and tail the collection. Just one of Popper’s, the sinuous No. 29, is a striking reminder that it was the Bohemian who had the most potent personality of all the great 19th century cellist-composers.


Helen Wallace