Paganini Caprices for Solo Violin
Roman Simovic (violin)
LSO Live LSO5083 94:52 mins (2 discs)
It’s unusual for the Paganini Caprices to spread over two CDs, but my fear that this might imply over-cautious speeds was quickly dispelled. There’s no lack of energy in the opening arpeggio study, although there could be a wider dynamic range, and a more consistent pulse. As Roman Simovic moves through the micro-worlds of Paganini’s imagination, he has a nice line in rubato, and already in the second caprice, there’s a good sense of his intimate relationship with the music, intensified in the portamento octaves in the third, and the contrasts of tempo in the fourth. The playing is almost always full-on, and I sometimes found myself wanting greater variety of tone, especially in the more delicate passages. Against that there’s the precision of the double stops, and that sense of rhythmic shape and momentum. Whether it’s a good idea to listen to all 24 in a sitting is questionable, but I’d like to have more of a gap between each, so that their impact can be better savoured. The sound is close and warm – despite appearing on the LSO Live label, this is a studio recording by the orchestra’s leader.
There are delights here: the teasing ‘Devil’s Laughter’ of the 13th caprice ushers in the second half of the set, where both Paganini and Simovic seem to up their game, in terms of imagination and variety, through the Bach-like figurations of the 16th, the affectionate hurdy-gurdy drone of the 20th, to the famous variations of the 24th, dispatched with elegance.