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24 Caprices for Solo Violin Op.1 - Part 2

Nicolò Paganini (b. 1782 - d. 1840)

Tanja Becker-Bender

Tanja Becker-Bender

Composer
Nicolò Paganini (b. 1782 - d. 1840)
Composition Year
1819
Work Movements
13. "Devil
14. in E-flat major: Moderato
15. in E minor: Posato
16. in G minor: Presto
17. in E-flat major: Sostenuto - Andante
18. in C major: Corrente – Allegro
19. in E-flat major: Lento - Allegro Assai
20. in D major: Allegretto
21. in A major: Amoroso - Presto
22. in F major: Marcato
23. in E-flat major: Posato
24. in A minor: Tema con Variazioni (Quasi Presto)
Artists
Tanja Becker-Bender [violin]

Programme Note Writer:
© Fíacha O'Dubhda

Paganini’s first published works, and the ones with which he has been most intimately associated, were written between 1802 and 1817 during his first Italian tours. Perhaps mockingly dedicated to 'The Artists', the Caprices were one of only five works Paganini allowed to be published during his lifetime, the rest remaining his carefully guarded trade secrets. The Caprices have a deeply pedagogical character, each illustrating a particular aspect of violin technique pushed to its physical extremities. They are a portrait of a wild frontier of playing, where passages of audacious complexity and dazzling effect were nonchalantly paraded. It would be easy to dismiss the Caprices as a vehicle for the unadulterated display of virtuosity, but in the right hands they can truly come alive and the atmosphere of theatre and opera drips from every melody.

Although unique in their display of new instrumental techniques the works had a clear ancestry in the 24 Caprices contained within the concertos of Locatelli's L'arte del Violino [1722]. As he struggled to better his playing and technique as a teenager in late 18th century Genoa, systematically exhausting the expertise of all the local teachers around him, Paganini obtained a copy of L'arte del Violino and worked at mastering it to stretch his ability. Grappling with Locatelli's work no doubt had a considerable influence on the young Paganini, stimulating his lifelong emphasis on transcending the apparent limitations of his instrument in sensational and exciting ways.

Within the Caprices there are plenty of miraculous moments. The seemingly independent bass line that emerges from the breakneck spiccato passages of the 5th, the tremblingly ghostly chorus effects of the double-stopped trills employed in the 6th, the much imitated 24th Caprice where a simple melody is subjected to a bewildering array of technical invention. In the Caprices the tone of Paganini's life and music is set; the helter-skelter pace, the manic chromaticisms, the schizophrenic juxtaposition of the instrument's extremities. Overall they are works that confound and dazzle, exaggerating with every stroke.

Wherever Paganini went hyperbole followed. Franz Liszt noted that The excitement he created was so unusual, the magic that he practised upon the imagination of his hearers so powerful, that they would not be satisfied with a natural explanation. Old tales of witches and ghost stories came into their minds; they attempted to explain the miracle of his playing by delving into his past, to interpret the wonder of his genius in a supernatural way; they even hinted that he had devoted his spirit to the Evil One, and that the fourth string of his violin was made from his wife's intestines, which he himself had cut out.

Even Goethe himself didn’t quite know what to make of these sensational pyrotechnics; Now I too have heard Paganini play. In relation to this pillar of flame and cloud I had no base for what is known as enjoyment, which as far as I am concerned always hangs somewhere between the feelings and the intellectual. All I heard was something akin to a meteor, and then was unable to account for it.

Controversy and debate, indignation and idolisation abounded everywhere Paganini ventured onto a stage, yet if one thing could be agreed on, it was that he had a formidable presence, whether as theatrical trickster or ground breaking virtuoso. It was during the tours in which the Caprices were forged that he began to cultivate his legendary stage persona; the long wild hair and shabby black suit, the staged breaking of strings, the impromptu musical jokes, the tendency to spontaneously 'improve' the works of other composers, emerging late for added tension from behind the curtains as they were slowly lifted to the sound of an extended drum roll. His sense of the theatrical was paramount to his success, the rumours and gossip that spread of his diabolical talent and countenance proving to be a most effective promotional apparatus. When he finally made his Vienna début in 1828 women wore their hair a la Paganini, bakers made their bread in the shape of violins, and he made more money from eight concerts than Schubert earned from his entire life’s work.

 

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24 Caprices for Solo Violin Op.1 - Part 2

Composer: Nicolò Paganini (b. 1782 - d. 1840)
Performance date: Saturday 30th June 2012
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Nicolò Paganini (b. 1782 - d. 1840)
Work Title 24 Caprices for Solo Violin Op.1 - Part 2
Composition Year 1819
Work Movements 13. "Devil
14. in E-flat major: Moderato
15. in E minor: Posato
16. in G minor: Presto
17. in E-flat major: Sostenuto - Andante
18. in C major: Corrente – Allegro
19. in E-flat major: Lento - Allegro Assai
20. in D major: Allegretto
21. in A major: Amoroso - Presto
22. in F major: Marcato
23. in E-flat major: Posato
24. in A minor: Tema con Variazioni (Quasi Presto)
Artist(s) Tanja Becker-Bender [violin]
Performance Date Saturday 30th June 2012
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Stars in the Afternoon
Duration 00:35:03
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Solo
Instrumentation vn
Programme Note Writer © Fíacha O'Dubhda

Paganini’s first published works, and the ones with which he has been most intimately associated, were written between 1802 and 1817 during his first Italian tours. Perhaps mockingly dedicated to 'The Artists', the Caprices were one of only five works Paganini allowed to be published during his lifetime, the rest remaining his carefully guarded trade secrets. The Caprices have a deeply pedagogical character, each illustrating a particular aspect of violin technique pushed to its physical extremities. They are a portrait of a wild frontier of playing, where passages of audacious complexity and dazzling effect were nonchalantly paraded. It would be easy to dismiss the Caprices as a vehicle for the unadulterated display of virtuosity, but in the right hands they can truly come alive and the atmosphere of theatre and opera drips from every melody.

Although unique in their display of new instrumental techniques the works had a clear ancestry in the 24 Caprices contained within the concertos of Locatelli's L'arte del Violino [1722]. As he struggled to better his playing and technique as a teenager in late 18th century Genoa, systematically exhausting the expertise of all the local teachers around him, Paganini obtained a copy of L'arte del Violino and worked at mastering it to stretch his ability. Grappling with Locatelli's work no doubt had a considerable influence on the young Paganini, stimulating his lifelong emphasis on transcending the apparent limitations of his instrument in sensational and exciting ways.

Within the Caprices there are plenty of miraculous moments. The seemingly independent bass line that emerges from the breakneck spiccato passages of the 5th, the tremblingly ghostly chorus effects of the double-stopped trills employed in the 6th, the much imitated 24th Caprice where a simple melody is subjected to a bewildering array of technical invention. In the Caprices the tone of Paganini's life and music is set; the helter-skelter pace, the manic chromaticisms, the schizophrenic juxtaposition of the instrument's extremities. Overall they are works that confound and dazzle, exaggerating with every stroke.

Wherever Paganini went hyperbole followed. Franz Liszt noted that The excitement he created was so unusual, the magic that he practised upon the imagination of his hearers so powerful, that they would not be satisfied with a natural explanation. Old tales of witches and ghost stories came into their minds; they attempted to explain the miracle of his playing by delving into his past, to interpret the wonder of his genius in a supernatural way; they even hinted that he had devoted his spirit to the Evil One, and that the fourth string of his violin was made from his wife's intestines, which he himself had cut out.

Even Goethe himself didn’t quite know what to make of these sensational pyrotechnics; Now I too have heard Paganini play. In relation to this pillar of flame and cloud I had no base for what is known as enjoyment, which as far as I am concerned always hangs somewhere between the feelings and the intellectual. All I heard was something akin to a meteor, and then was unable to account for it.

Controversy and debate, indignation and idolisation abounded everywhere Paganini ventured onto a stage, yet if one thing could be agreed on, it was that he had a formidable presence, whether as theatrical trickster or ground breaking virtuoso. It was during the tours in which the Caprices were forged that he began to cultivate his legendary stage persona; the long wild hair and shabby black suit, the staged breaking of strings, the impromptu musical jokes, the tendency to spontaneously 'improve' the works of other composers, emerging late for added tension from behind the curtains as they were slowly lifted to the sound of an extended drum roll. His sense of the theatrical was paramount to his success, the rumours and gossip that spread of his diabolical talent and countenance proving to be a most effective promotional apparatus. When he finally made his Vienna début in 1828 women wore their hair a la Paganini, bakers made their bread in the shape of violins, and he made more money from eight concerts than Schubert earned from his entire life’s work.