Nicolò Paganini – Trios For Strings And Guitar (1995)

FrontCover1.jpgPaganini holds an esteemed status as probably the world’s finest ever virtuoso violinist but his chamber music compositions are, with minor exceptions, almost totally ignored. It is often forgotten that Paganini also played and composed for the guitar. In fact, of the five opus numbers published during his lifetime only the op. 1 set of 24 Caprices for Solo Violin did not include the guitar. It may come as a surprise that Paganini also wrote a sacred choral score entitled Le couvent du mont St. Bernard for violin, chorus and orchestra. I have yet to hear it but it was given its first recording by the Dynamic label.

Dynamic, the independent Italian record label, based close to Paganini’s birthplace in Genoa, has compiled this ten disc set of their previously issued Paganini recordings. It seems that several of these recordings were receiving their first recording. Although this box includes the complete edition of Paganini’s fifteen quartets for strings and guitar; the three string quartets and a number of other chamber works there is certainly much of Paganini’s chamber music not included here. It omits the large amount of chamber music that Paganini wrote for guitar and violin, solo guitar and for solo violin. There are seventy or so duets for violin and guitar, including the familiar Sonata concertata, MS2, Grand Sonata, MS3 and the Cantabile, MS109. In addition Paganini wrote over a hundred scores for solo guitar. Dynamic have issued discs of a sizeable number of Paganini’s works for violin and guitar and a disc of some of his solo guitar scores.

Paganini holds an esteemed status as probably the world’s finest ever virtuoso violinist but his chamber music compositions are, with minor exceptions, almost totally ignored. It is often forgotten that Paganini also played and composed for the guitar. In fact, of the five opus numbers published during his lifetime only the op. 1 set of 24 Caprices for Solo Violin did not include the guitar. It may come as a surprise that Paganini also wrote a sacred choral score entitled Le couvent du mont St. Bernard for violin, chorus and orchestra. I have yet to hear it but it was given its first recording by the Dynamic label.

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It seems that Paganini wrote chamber music from an early age and continued to do so regularly throughout his life. Often he would compose whilst on tour as a virtuoso performer during the long and arduous coach journeys. Biographer Danilo Prefumo has written that, “Paganini’s chamber music is the genuine expression of the more private side of this composer’s musicality …” The general neglect of Paganini’s chamber music is highlighted by the fact that for many decades a large number of the scores have not been generally available for performance. For example his three string quartets MS20 were published as recently as 1976 with a performing edition in 1991; some hundred and fifty years after their composition.

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In addition to his fame for composing for the violin Paganini also wrote a substantial amount of music for the guitar. The majority of the scores on this Dynamic release include the guitar. Swiss composer Franz von Wartensee, an associate of Paganini, wrote in his memoirs, “Not everyone knows that Paganini was a first-rate guitarist, since he did not consider it worth the effort to present himself publicly as such.” The sources of information that I have checked are rather vague on the origins and dates of Paganini’s attraction to the guitar. I understand that the main influence was his father Antonio who was himself a mandolin player and it is likely that from an early age Paganini would have received instruction from Antonio. It seems that from around 1801, during the few years that Paganini lived with a wealthy lady on her country estate in Tuscany, his energies were principally channelled into guitar study and composition.

These rarely encountered chamber music scores from the Genoese Maestro are certainly worthy of investigation. (by Michael Cookson)

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Personnel:
Dora Bratchkova (violin)
Antonello Farulli (viola)
Götz Hartmann (violin)
Andrea Noferini (cello)
Adriano Sebastiani (guitar)

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Tracklist:

Serenata in C major for viola, cello and guitar, M.S. 17:
01. Allegretto spiritoso 5.06
02. Minuetto (Andantino – Amorosamente) 1.39
03. Adagio non tanto (Unione con anima) 2.10
04. Rondò con maestria e grazia (Canzonetta genovese) 1.57
05. Andantino alla polacca 4.20

Terzetto Concertante in D major for viola, cello and guitar, M.S. 114:
06. Allegro 8.12
07. Minuetto 4.11
08. Adagio cantabile 3.18
09. Waltz a rondò (Allegretto con energia) 7.15

Terzetto in D major for violin, cello and guitar, M.S. 69:
10. Allegro con brio 6.53
11. Minuetto (Allegro vivace) 3.58
12. Andante, Larghetto (Cavate) 3.29
13. Rondò (Allegretto) 5.56

Terzetto in A minor for 2 violins and guitar, M.S. 116:
14. Andante sostenuto 0.29
15. Tempo di minuetto 1.26
16. Andantino – Allegro 1.19

Serenata in F major for 2 violins and guitar, M.S. 115:
17. Introduzione, Largo 0.39
18. Tempo di minuetto – Amoroso 1.39
19. Andantino scherzando 1.52

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Nicoló Paganini – Violin Contertos 1 & 2 (Ilya Grubert) (1996)

FrontCover1Some words about the grat Nicoló Paganini:

Nicolo Paganini was born in Genoa, Italy, Oct 27, 1782. He was one of six children born to Teresa and Antonio Paganini. He was an Italian violinist and a composer, considered by many as the greatest of all time.

He received music lessons from his father before he was 6 years old and later from the best instructors in Genoa. He began to perform in public and composed his first sonata in 1790. In 1795 he went to Parma, Italy to study but the teachers there told him they could do nothing more for him. He then commenced on a course of self-training so rigorous that he often played 15 hours a day. In 1797 he started his concert tours, which for many years consisted of triumph after triumph. From 1805 to 1808 he was the court solo violinist at Lucca, appointed by Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bacciocchi. In 1809 Nicolo became a free-lance soloist performing his own music. He performed concerts throughout Italy.

 In early 1828 Nicolo began a six and half year tour that started in Vienna and ended in Paris in September 1834. During the two and half year period from August 1828 to February, 1831 he visited some 40 cities in Germany, Bohemia, and Poland. Performances in Vienna, Paris, and London were hailed widely, and his tour in 1832 through England and Scotland made him wealthy.

His playing of tender passages was so beautiful that his audiences often burst into tears, and yet, he could perform with such force and velocity that at Vienna one listener became half crazed and declared that for some days that he had seen the Devil helping the violinist.

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Once his fame was established, Paganini’s life was a mixture of triumphs and personal excesses. He earned large sums of money but he indulged recklessly in gambling and other forms of dissipation. On one occasion he was forced to pawn his violin. Having requested the loan of a violin from a wealthy French merchant so that he could fulfill an engagement, he was given a Guarnerius violin by the merchant and later refused to take it back when the concert was over. It was Paganini’s treasure and was bequeathed to the people of Genoa by the violinist and is still carefully preserved in that city

Paganini’s genius as a player overshadows his work as a composer. He wrote much of his music for his own performances, music so difficult that it was commonly thought that he entered into a pack with the Devil. His compositions included 24 caprices (published in 1820) for unaccompanied violin that are among the most difficult works ever written for the instrument. He also challenged musicians with such compositions as his 12 sonatas for violin and guitar; 6 violin concerti; and 6 quartets for violin, viola, cello, and guitar.

According to Philip Sandblom in his book Creativity and Disease few geniuses have experienced such lucky agonies as Paganini, bedeviled by a host of chronic complaints, including Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, marked by excessive flexibility of the joints. “This enabled Paganini to perform the astonishing double-stoppings and roulades for which he was famous”, Sandblom writes. “His wrist was so loose that he could move and twist it in all directions. Although his hand was not disproportional he could thus double its reach and play in the first three positions without shifting.”

It is well known that Paganini rarely practiced after his 30th birthday. Those who were closely associated with him used to marvel at his brilliant technique and watched him closely to discover how he retained it.

In performance Paganini enjoyed playing tricks, like tuning one of his strings a semitone high, or playing the majority of a piece on one string after breaking the other three. He astounded audiences with techniques that included harmonics, double stops, pizzicato with the left as well as the right hand, and near impossible fingerings and bowings.

Antonia Bianchi, a singer who toured with Nicolo in 1825, bore him a son, Cyrus Alexander on July 23, 1825. Although they were never married, he did lavish affection on his son for the rest of his life.

Known as a gambler, he unsuccessfully attempted to open a gambling casino in Paris in 1838. Later he moved to Marseilles and then to Nice, France where he died on May 27, 1840. (by paganini.com)

And now some words about his album:

Paganini’s genius was as much for crowd-pleasing as for technical expertise, although it is doubtful whether he would have made any distinction between the two; he wrote his 24 Caprices, which changed our perception of the violin’s possibilities, primarily to show in concert that only he could play anything so difficult. But he was a creature of fashion as well as innovation, and the passages of showy virtuosity in these concertos are framed in an accessible bel canto idiom. Indeed, the orchestral introduction to the First Concerto sounds as if it were lifted straight from a Rossini or Donizetti overture.

As this sympathetic recording shows, these pieces – when treated with an appropriately light touch – are enjoyable and entertaining, even though the violin’s high tessitura can become tiresome.Grubert

Ilya Grubert understands Paganini’s flashy wit, and plays with ebullience, sometimes at the expense of a truly bel canto tone, although he gives a sensitive account of the Adagio of the darker second concerto.

The Moscow Chamber Orchestra, under Constantine Orbelian, is nicely unobtrusive in what are above all showpieces for the soloist, but the most consistently assured recording of the first concerto is probably still Perlman’s for EMI. (by William Humphreys-Jones)

Personnel:
Ilya Grubert (violin)
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Moscow Chamber Orchestra conducted by Constantine Orbelian

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Tracklist:

Violin Concerto No. 1 in E flat major (usually transposed to D major), Op. 6, MS 21:    
01. Allegro maestoso – Tempo giusto 21.38
02. Adagio 5.18
03. Rondo: Allegro spirituoso – Un poco più presto 9.26

Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor (“La campanella”), Op. 7, MS 48:    
04. Allegro maestoso 15.42
05. Adagio 6.32
06. Rondo: Trio 8.12

Composed by Nicolò Paganini

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