"Paganini, 24 Caprices and Other Works for Solo Violin" performed by Rachel Barton Pine (Avie, two discs)
They really knew how to sell their virtuosi in the early Romantic era.
Eyewitness newspaper accounts in his lifetime claimed to have witnessed a witch standing behind violinist Niccolo Paganini as he performed and manipulating his fingers. But then what else would anyone expect from a virtuoso who had, by common agreement, sold his soul to the devil for his astonishing ability? All that supposed diabolism did wonders for Paganini's and Franz Liszt's careers during their lifetimes but, all these centuries later, it's the music that matters as opposed to the idiot mythology of promotion. And Paganini's solo violin music is a gorgeous fiesta for first-rate violinists – especially young ones, such as Rachel Barton Pine, who are nothing if not partial to the solo violin repertoire. (She has already recorded Bach's complete sonatas and partitas for solo violin.)
Pine, in the notes, tells us how she has gained understanding by studying the composer's manuscripts of his scores and worked with "bel canto singing coaches to gain insight into phrasing and sound." Many are the young violinists who want to be both impeccable and inspired playing Paganini's solo violin music, but few do so as well as Pine does on these discs.
3 1/2 stars (out of four)