Paganini: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D; Moses Fantasy; Cantabile; Introduction and Variations on ‘Nel cor più non mi sento’

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COMPOSERS: Paganini
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D; Moses Fantasy; Cantabile; Introduction and Variations on ‘Nel cor più non mi sento’
PERFORMER: Ilya Gringolts (violin), Irina Ryumina (piano); Lahti SO/Osmo Vänskä
CATALOGUE NO: CD-999

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The young Ilya Gringolts has been hailed as a prodigy. What then could be more natural than to let him loose on music by Paganini, the most prodigious of all violinists? No composer has placed such demands on a formidable technique – even if the challenge of performing a piece such as the Moses-Fantasie on the G string alone is rather gratuitous.

The variations for solo violin on Nel cor piu non mi sento seems to encompass the entire lexicon of virtuosic technique, culminating in a coda that does its best to squeeze in as many notes as you might expect from a modest string orchestra. Gringolts deals with all this without fuss, which is alone sufficient proof of his precocious virtuosity.

But for a sense of his musicality we should look at something more inherently meaningful than this hail of notes designed to impress Paganini's admirers. The last variation before the coda, for instance, consists of a spare solo line that threads gently up through the stave: here Gringolts offers a performance of exquisite tenderness, ending on a note so frail and evanescent that it is a credit to the recording engineers that we can hear it at all. It shows that he has feelings too.

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Christopher Lambton