Paganini: 24 Caprices for solo violin

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WORKS: 24 Caprices for solo violin, Op. 1
PERFORMER: Tedi Papavrami (violin)


Paganini’s Caprices were once considered the preserve of the super-virtuoso specialist, yet judging by the number of highly accomplished performances on YouTube (including a jaw-dropping account of No. 24 from cellist Wells Cunningham) it would now seem that any aspiring artist who can’t play these finger-breakers might as well call it a day. 

In terms of devil-may-care wizardry, Tedi Papavrami probably lies closest to Alexander Markov (Warner). Like Markov (also recorded ‘live’), Papavrami imparts a striking imperativeness to each caprice, almost as though he is entranced by its purely musical properties. He reminds us that those lucky enough to see Paganini play were invariably mesmerised not so much by his unrivalled agility as by the frisson he created on stage. 

Papavrami emphasises the point by offsetting a fine studio recording he made back in 1997, with a live account recorded in Japan some four years later. Broadly speaking he takes the whiplash caprices


a shade faster in the studio, the more meditative pieces slightly slower, but the real difference is in the overall mood of the performances. Whereas in the studio there is a triumphant certainty about everything he does, recorded ‘live’ he lives on the edge, never allowing the music’s repeated patternings to settle as he digs deep beneath its moto perpetuo surfaces. Not, perhaps, a central recommendation, but a thrilling musical experience nonetheless. Julian Haylock