Notes and Editorial Reviews
Chen Xi (vn)
NAXOS 8572665 (73: 33)
This CD presents the music of Karol Jósef Lipi?ski, a Polish virtuoso violinist whose popularity once rivaled Paganini himself. According to the album cover, the op. 10 Capriccios were dedicated to Paganini and are essentially show-off pieces, while the op. 27 set combines dazzling technique with “the depth of Spohr,
Tartini, and Viotti’s musical philosophies” to create richer, more meaningful music. Yet even in the earlier set of capriccios, the music is quite rich in invention and ingenious devices, particularly the way he starts No. 3 with an introductory
before moving into an
Allegro con fuoco.
Chen Xi has an absolutely dazzling technique but, more importantly, also has a beautiful tone and superb musical style. Even in the earlier set, his playing of Capriccio No. 2 in F?-Minor is sensitively phrased and shaded, not merely display for display’s sake. This same sensitivity also manifests itself in the Capriccio No. 3, where he builds the opening
section through various changes of mood and dynamics. Even in the
section of the last caprice, there are none of the most extreme elements of Paganini’s style, for instance
ricochet bowing, and the rapid alternation of bowed and pizzicato notes. Thus, his music is more consistently interesting in development and thematic relationships.
The op. 27 Caprices are, like the last of the op. 10 set, written with different sections in contrasting tempos. There is considerable interest in this music, as the technical marvels soon become an integral part of the evolving musical thread. Later in this piece, you hear a lot of themes—some of which involve portamento—that remind me a great deal of some of Fritz Kreisler’s music. Likewise, the Caprice in G?-Minor leads into an
section of considerable involvement, not only multiple themes but interesting development using the technique of the instrument as part of the music. As it goes on, the double-stops and chromatic runs, features intended by Paganini to dazzle the ear, become part of the fabric of the score. This kind of musical brinksmanship is the hallmark of a fine composer, and Lipi?ski certainly qualifies in that respect. At one point, the violinist flies up to a high E? which then acts as a springboard for a variation, following which he plays a double-time, double-stop passage that actually develops that theme. This kind of brinksmanship continues throughout the op. 27 Caprices, making of them truly creative and interesting music. These are, then, highly creative pieces for unaccompanied violin with little or no relation to the sonatas and partitas of Bach.
As mentioned, Xi is an outstanding violinist but, more importantly, he brings attention to the
not to himself as a technical wizard. Oh yes, certainly, he’s doing all of these difficult things on the violin, but what you continually listen to is Lipi?ski and the creative flow of ideas he put into this music. This is the hallmark of the true servant of music, to focus the attention on the score and not the messenger of the score. Looking at ArkivMusic, this appears to be the only recording of both sets of capriccios. Very highly recommended, to lovers of violin music or lovers of music in general.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
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