Ning Feng (violin)
Channel Classics CCS 43221 75:29 mins
There have been many and varied bravura recordings of Paganini’s Caprices these last years – they are, after all, the go-to for virtuosic display, written by the legendary 19th-century violinist as a way of showcasing his phenomenal technique. Here Ning Feng adds his own deeply expressive yet understated interpretation.
From the fabulously virtuosic first, the trademark rapid string skittering is exhilaratingly done, countered by Feng’s breath-like touch and expression in the lovely No. 4. Feng plays with exquisite lightness in places, but there is humour, too, notably the hill road ups and downs of No. 5, which rise and fall as if on cartoon wheels, teetering at the top and sliding down joyfully into the valley below to gain momentum for the next hill.
There is superb touch and expression, whether in the pastoral call and response of No. 9 or the tentative, wistful trilling of No. 6. Feng’s sound has great warmth in the lower register and lightness up top – there is nothing grandstandingly showy here, but a virtuosic truth to the music, which might sound contradictory given that we are talking about Paganini, but brings remarkable clarity.
The coda is a 25th Caprice ‘d’Adieu’, dedicated to the German violinist Eduard Eliason, a light, technically challenging powder-puff finish, as if a final wink.
Sarah Urwin Jones