Notes and Editorial Reviews
This eminently popular and extremely challenging set of works for virtuoso solo violin naturally has attracted the interest of every major artist worthy of the name, resulting in a significant recorded legacy that's as much a tribute to the artists--Accardo, Perlman, Rabin, Ricci, Midori, etc.--as to Paganini's genius. However, if you're in the market for a first-rank--indeed superlative--recording of Paganini's masterpiece, look no further than this release from Canadian violinist James Ehnes.
While Ehnes may not readily embrace the "superstar" emblem, he is as deserving of that status as anyone, and not because his publicist and record company have declared it. He is
simply a phenomenal violinist and extraordinary musician who, from the first bars of Caprice No. 1 commands your attention and never lets it wander through the next 75 or so minutes.
Unlike some violinists whose aim is simply to call attention to their dazzling technique and charismatic musicianship (which Ehnes has in spades!), as you listen to Ehnes, there's never a hint of exploitation--he's all business, all about the fire and passion in Paganini's outrageously extroverted signatures. And his technique is so smooth, so natural, you are not distracted by noticing such mundane, human impairments as physical effort, nor do you fail to appreciate his gifts for tonal allure and sheer dramatic flair--Paganini's technical obstacles are, well, just not obstacles at all. And that's just how it should be in these works, a tribute to the composer's uninhibited style and unfettered understanding of what the violin--and a skilled violinist--can do.
A critical observer easily can go through and dissect each one of the 24 caprices and judge Ehnes' approach relative to other benchmarks--but as far as I'm concerned, playing of this caliber stands on its own, apart from comparisons, no matter how judicious or thoughtful. Ehnes' performances are solid enough and authoritative enough that you can confidently choose this recording as your reference--and as a guaranteed, bedazzling journey through some of the violin repertoire's most awesome terrain. Highly recommended!
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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