Paganini: 24 Caprices, Op. 1

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WORKS: 24 Caprices, Op. 1
PERFORMER: Tedi Papavrami (violin)
Tedi Papavrami has played the 24 Caprices in concert, a brave gesture even in these days of high-powered technique. In the First Caprice, his staccato bowing is absolutely rhythmic, though there’s sometimes a tendency for high notes to be rapidly snatched and out of tune. This is only a momentary glitch, and by the time of the Third Caprice’s legato octaves with trills there’s a consistency of sound and intonation, together with a subtle vibrato that gives the music real feeling beyond the sense of mere technical exercise. His double stops are pretty impressive as well, though in No. 4, it’s again the faster sections that lead to some slight roughness. Roughness is one thing that you don’t get from Itzhak Perlman in his 1972 version, now one of EMI’s Great Recordings of the Century, and in the Sixth Caprice he smoothly integrates the tremolando accompaniment and melody where Papavrami sounds a touch more effortful. But no more than the pioneering Ruggiero Ricci, who’s far less well recorded: Papavrami is detailed and up-front, though his breathing sometimes becomes intrusive, and there’s the odd bumpy edit. But he catches the musical character of each individual caprice – the succession of the insouciant 13th, the martial 14th and the volatile 15th, for example – with a variety of tone, attack and rubato. And that gives the whole set a real integrity: when the last one arrives, crackingly played, it’s a real culmination, rather than just the jumping-off point for later composers. I liked this. Martin Cotton