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David Popper: Cellist and Composer

Janet Horvath_019#2 4x5Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath is the author of Playing Less Hurt. Here is an excerpt of her article on David Popper at Interlude.

David Popper

Composer and cellist David Popper is well known among cellists. His High School of Cello Playing is our Bible—40 Études comprising every acrobatic feat of cello pyrotechnics.

Popper was born among the narrow streets of the Jewish ghetto of Prague, Czechoslovakia June 16, 1843. David was five years old when in 1848 the Hapsburg emperor granted civil equality to the Jews and their isolation in the ghetto ended. The gloomy, unhealthy homes of the ghetto made a lasting impression on Popper despite the fact that most of his music is cheery and uplifting. The family was able to move out of the area when Popper was eight years old. By then employment restrictions had been lifted and some trades were permitted, as was being a musician.

Popper’s father was a Cantor—the religious leader who sings the prayers in the Synagogue. At a very young age Popper began to imitate his father’s singing. Popper’s talent was such that he was allowed to study with the famed cello pedagogue Julius Goltermann, (a name cellists are familiar with due to his cello compositions.)

In December of 1862 Popper was bestowed the coveted title of “Kammervirtuoso” by Prince Constantine Hohenzollern-Hechingen. In appreciation, Popper composed a series of pieces that are among his most cherished works Arlequin and Papillon from the Six Character Pieces. Conductor Hans von Bülow, heard Popper perform and was so impressed with the young man that he helped arrange a concert tour for Popper, his first, in 1863. As a solo cellist Popper had the opportunity to try his own compositions as well as to perform the major works for cello and orchestra. He was always dedicated to the music of his time, premiering several new cello concertos.

Find out more about David Popper on Janet Horvath’s blog!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.