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Sei Capricci per violino,

Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947)

Composer
Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947)
Composition Year
1976
Work Movements
1. Vivace
2. Andante
3. Assai agitato
4. Volubile
5. Presto
6. Con brio
Artists
N/A

Programme Note Writer:
© Fíacha O'Dubhda

Sciarrino’s Capricci are naturally reminiscent of those of Paganini, yet in these pieces the myths of bravura and virtuosity so epitomised by those archetypal works are deconstructed, revealing a tender tentativeness beneath the surface of technical display. There is a constant feeling that the mighty edifice of performance might crumble, delicately constructed as it is from wood and air and the movement of hairs. Sometimes it is as if Paganini were being played underwater, virtuosities distorted by shifting tides, bent from crystalline perfection by the movements of time, or played high on a mountain peak, the hard edges of the notes blown away in a wind that echoes through the violin, whistling through the instrument, making its deep spaces resonant with unforeseen harmonics, starkly elemental in their beauty.


Because I am harmonics, was Sciarrino’s reply when asked by violinist Carolin Widmann why do you only do harmonics? These are pieces wrought from a shifting world of overtone and harmonic allusion, where notes are composed of multiple valencies, spectral insinuations of corporeality. In the score Sciarrino’s directions are written like footnotes, asterisks indicating descriptions as detailed as stage directions for the sought harmonic effect. There are impossible harmonics that do not actually exist on the parts of the string where they are indicated; by playing as if they were possible new sounds emerge. There are oscillating harmonics where two notes are indicated and the oscillation between them, bowed close to the bridge, produces a world of overlapping overtones. There is the use of spazzolare or brushing with the bow, where the stroking of the strings along their length creates ghostly sounds from this unfamiliar form of contact. There is a sense in which the technique of the violin is being reinvented in ways as radical and challenging to players as those of the Paganini Caprices to which they allude.


The first Caprice is the most reminiscent of Paganini, an alchemic transmutation of those ricocheting arpeggiated cascades that threaten to dazzle and alienate the listener with their laser-like precision, into a airier more human domain. The second is a shimmering world, a meditative and serene polyphony of breezes. The third is softly agitated, the fourth is marked volubil, a skittish exploration of sudden contrasts, infinitesimal tremulations, and declamatory glissandi. The fifth presto is to be played sometimes like a sigh and sometimes like a whisper. The sixth plays with the sound of unbowed fingers touching the strings, the wood of the bow, and a dazzling array of harmonic effects, ending with a restatement of the superimposed image of Sciarrino’s and Pagannini’s first Caprice. 

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Sei Capricci per violino,

Composer: Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947)
Performance date: Saturday 1st July 2017
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947)
Work Title Sei Capricci per violino,
Composition Year 1976
Work Movements 1. Vivace
2. Andante
3. Assai agitato
4. Volubile
5. Presto
6. Con brio
Language English
Artist(s) N/A
Performance Date Saturday 1st July 2017
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:25:36
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Solo
Instrumentation vn
Programme Note Writer © Fíacha O'Dubhda

Sciarrino’s Capricci are naturally reminiscent of those of Paganini, yet in these pieces the myths of bravura and virtuosity so epitomised by those archetypal works are deconstructed, revealing a tender tentativeness beneath the surface of technical display. There is a constant feeling that the mighty edifice of performance might crumble, delicately constructed as it is from wood and air and the movement of hairs. Sometimes it is as if Paganini were being played underwater, virtuosities distorted by shifting tides, bent from crystalline perfection by the movements of time, or played high on a mountain peak, the hard edges of the notes blown away in a wind that echoes through the violin, whistling through the instrument, making its deep spaces resonant with unforeseen harmonics, starkly elemental in their beauty.


Because I am harmonics, was Sciarrino’s reply when asked by violinist Carolin Widmann why do you only do harmonics? These are pieces wrought from a shifting world of overtone and harmonic allusion, where notes are composed of multiple valencies, spectral insinuations of corporeality. In the score Sciarrino’s directions are written like footnotes, asterisks indicating descriptions as detailed as stage directions for the sought harmonic effect. There are impossible harmonics that do not actually exist on the parts of the string where they are indicated; by playing as if they were possible new sounds emerge. There are oscillating harmonics where two notes are indicated and the oscillation between them, bowed close to the bridge, produces a world of overlapping overtones. There is the use of spazzolare or brushing with the bow, where the stroking of the strings along their length creates ghostly sounds from this unfamiliar form of contact. There is a sense in which the technique of the violin is being reinvented in ways as radical and challenging to players as those of the Paganini Caprices to which they allude.


The first Caprice is the most reminiscent of Paganini, an alchemic transmutation of those ricocheting arpeggiated cascades that threaten to dazzle and alienate the listener with their laser-like precision, into a airier more human domain. The second is a shimmering world, a meditative and serene polyphony of breezes. The third is softly agitated, the fourth is marked volubil, a skittish exploration of sudden contrasts, infinitesimal tremulations, and declamatory glissandi. The fifth presto is to be played sometimes like a sigh and sometimes like a whisper. The sixth plays with the sound of unbowed fingers touching the strings, the wood of the bow, and a dazzling array of harmonic effects, ending with a restatement of the superimposed image of Sciarrino’s and Pagannini’s first Caprice.