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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Paganini: Violin Concertos (Complete)

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Blogger’s Note: As we mark the ten-year milestone of the Tuesday Blog and entertain our 222 day binge challenge on For Your Listening Pleasure, we are planning “collections” as part of our monthly shares over the coming months.

This week’s Cover2Cover starts the ball rolling with a Brilliant Classics three-disk release of the complete violin concertos of Nicolò Paganini performed by Alexandre Dubach and the Monte Carlo Philharmonic. Here are a few thoughts collected from the Brilliant Classics website (link below) and a BBC Music web article by Freya Parr.

‘A blazing comet’ was how Hector Berlioz described Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini. So faultless was his playing that many were convinced he had made a pact with the devil ¬– a theory substantiated by his somewhat ghoulish stage persona. A true musical legend of his era, Paganini inspired musicians such as Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt to forge their own careers as a pianists. Franz Schubert was also a regular audience member at Paganini’s concerts, despite the outlandish ticket prices.

The music he composed and performed throughout the early 19th century completely altered people’s perceptions of what could be done on a violin. His dazzling collection of techniques and special effects would often drive members of his audience to hysteria. Yet Paganini often remarked that, despite his legendary status as a violinist, he found it rather difficult to compose for the instrument.

Though there are many showpieces from Paganini’s violin output that are notorious – like the 24 caprices for solo violin we featured in 2014 the six concertos don’t get as much airplay, save maybe for numbers 1 and 2. Paganini relied on the guitar (in lieu of the piano) as an aid in composition; the orchestral parts for his concertos were often polite, unadventurous, and clearly supportive of the soloist. In this, his style is consistent with that of other Italian composers such as Giovanni Paisiello, Gioachino Rossini, and Gaetano Donizetti, who were influenced by the guitar-song milieu of Naples during this period.

Hopefully, sharing the complete set will allow you to take in all their mischief!

Programming Note: The single-track clip from YouTube will be deployed in three parts (one disc at a time) on our podcasting channel, including a first-time “crossover” montage this coming Friday.

Happy Listening!

Nicolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
The six violin concertos
Disk 1:
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, MS 60
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, MS 21 [Op. 6]

Disk 2:
Violin Concerto No. 3 in E Major, MS 50
Violin Concerto No. 6 in E Minor, MS 75

Disk 3:
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Minor, MS 78
Violin Concerto No. 2 in B Minor, MS 48 [Op. 7]

Alexandre Dubach, violin
Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo
Michel Sasson (Disk 1) and Lawrence Foster (Disks 2 & 3), conducting

Brilliant Classics 99582
Recorded 1991-94