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David Popper

A Minute with Miles

Have you ever heard of a composer named David Popper? If you’re not a cellist, your answer is very likely…“Nope.” But if you are a cellist, your answer is, “Well of course.” There are some composers whose reputations rest almost entirely on their works for one instrument, and who, although they may not have been composers of the first rank, wrote brilliantly for that one instrument. Popper, who was born in Prague, in 1843, is a perfect example. He was a virtuoso cellist himself, and in his compositions he stretched the limits of cello playing beyond where they’d ever been. Was he a great composer? Well, no, but virtually all the world’s cellists, even if they can’t actually play the pieces themselves, are familiar with such David Popper works as the Tarantella, the Dance of the Elves, and the Spinning Song. And cello students everywhere have struggled with Popper’s “High School of Cello Playing,” a book of études that’s a kind of Mount Everest of cello technique.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.