PAGANINI: Music for Violin and Guitar, Vol. 2

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Nicolo Paganini (1782 - 1840)

Music for Violin and Guitar Vol. II

Sonata per la gran viola e chitarra

Duetto amoroso

6 Sonatas Op. 2

Cantabile - Valse

Variazioni di bravurs

Paganini's popular reputation rested always on his phenomenal technique as aviolinist, coupled with a showman's ability to dominate an audience and tostupefy those who heard him by astonishing feats of virtuosity. His playingserved as an inspiration to other performers in the nineteenth century,suggesting to Chopin, in Warsaw, the piano Etudes, and to Liszt the material ofthe Paganini studies that he wrote in 1838. The very appearance of Paganiniimpressed people. His gaunt aquiline features, his suggestion of hunchedshoulders, his sombre clothing, gave rise to legends of association with theDevil, the alleged source of his power, an association supported by the frequentappearance by his side on his travels of his secretary, one Harris, thought bysome to be a familiar spirit or a Mephistopheles watching over his Faust.

Stories of a pact with the Devil were denied by Paganini himself, who, withcharacteristic understanding of the value of public relations in a morecredulous age, told of an angelic visitation to his mother, in a dream,foretelling his birth and his genius.

Paganini was born in Genoa in 1782 and was taught the violin first by hisfather, an amateur, and then by a violinist in the theatre orchestra and by thebetter known violinist Giacomo Costa, under whose tuition he gave a publicperformance in 1794. The following year he played to the violinist and teacherAlessandro Rolla in Parma, and on the latter's suggestion studied Compositionthere under Paer. After are turn to Genoa and removal during the Napoleonicinvasion, he settled in 1801 in Lucca, where, after 1805, he became soloviolinist to the new ruler, Princess Elisa Baciocchi, sister of Napoleon. At theend of 1809 he left, to travel during the next eighteen years throughout Italy,winning a very considerable popular reputation. It was not until1828 that hemade his first concert-tour abroad, visiting Vienna, Prague and then the majorcities of Germany, followed by Paris and London in 1831. His internationalcareer as a virtuoso ended in 1834, when, after an unsatisfactory tour ofEngland, he returned again to Italy, to Parma. A return to the concert-hall inNice and then, with considerable success, in Marseilles, was followed by anunsuccessful business venture in Paris, the Casino Paganini, which was intendedto provide facilities equally for gambling and for music. With increasing illhealth, he retired to Nice, where he died in 1840.

Although he is popularly known principally for his violin music, Paganiniwrote a large number of compositions for the guitar, an instrument of which healso demonstrated mastery. He left no less than 140 shorter pieces for guitar,28 duos for violin and guitar, with four trios and nine quartets that make useof the instrument. He had had some familiarity with the instrument as a child inGenoa. When in 1801 he finally gained freedom from his family and establishedhimself in Lucca, according to later legend he fell in love with a woman knownto us only as Dida, whose identity is unknown but whose connection with Paganiniis attested by dedications of some of his later compositions using guitar. Theseearly years in Lucca were subsequently the subject of gossip, with speculationas to the nature of the affair in which Paganini was involved, or evensuggestions that he had spent time, some eight years, in prison for the murdereither of his mistress or of his rival in love. These rumours Paganini latertook the trouble to deny. Whatever amorous intrigues had occupied him in Lucca,it seems that he devoted some attention to the guitar as well as to the violin,his technique of left-hand pizzicato in the latter to some extent suggested bythe technique of the guitar.

Paganini's Sonata per la gran viola was originally conceived for violaand orchestra, but the composer himself arranged it for viola and guitar. In1831 he acquired a Stradivarius viola and it was for this instrument that hecommissioned a concerto from Berlioz, a request that brought Harold in Italy, awork that hardly suited Paganini's purpose. There is an operatic introduction tothe sonata of great initial dramatic effect, melting into a more romantic mood.

The final set of variations gives scope for the use of harmonics and for afurther display of Paganini's gift for apparently simple and attractive melody.

The Duetto amoroso is thought to have been written in 1807. It has aclear programme - Beginning (Principio), Request (Preghiera), Consent (Acconsentito),Timidity (Timidezza), Pleasure (Contentezza), Quarrel (Lite), Peace (Pace),Signs of Love (Segnali d'amore), Notice of Parting (Notizia della partenza),Separation (Distacco). It seems to have been designed for performance at a courtconcert in Lucca, and was possibly directed towards Princess Elisa Baciocchiherself.

The six sonatas of Opus 2 belong to Paganini's earlier years in Lucca andwere dedicated to Signor delle Piane. Like the later set of six sonatas thatmake up Opus 3, each sonata is in two movements, the first generally slower andoften making use of dramatic devices typical of contemporary opera. The secondmovement, which sometimes gives scope for virtuoso display, forms a livelycontrast, often in perky dotted rhythms. The sonatas are followed by a Cantabileand Waltz written in 1823 or 1824 and dedicated Al bravo ragazzino Sig. CamilloSivori in a manuscript that gives some help with the desired fingering. Sivori,a protege of Paganini, made a significant name for himself as a violinist in acareer that obviously owed much to the example of the older player. The Variazionidi bravura treat the best known of all Paganini's work, the 24thCapriccio for violin solo, a thematic variation source for Brahms,Rachmaninov and others.

Scott St. John

Born in London, Ontario, the Canadian violinist and violist Scott St. Johnhas impressed critics and audiences, with a number of awards to his credit,including the 1988 Canada Council Competition, which brought the loan of the1717 Stradivarius violin that he plays. A graduate of the Curtis Institute, hemade his New York debut, playing violin and viola, in 1988, as first-prizewinner of the Alexander Schneider Violin and Viola Competition. Other awardshave included first prize at the 1992 Munich International Violin Competition.

Scott St. John has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras in America,Europe and Japan, including the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras and theRoyal Philharmonic in London.

Simon Wynberg

The guitarist Simon Wynberg was educated in South Africa, later taking aMaster's degree at the University of London, spending the years from 1978 to1991 in the English capital. He has recently settled in Toronto. Simon Wynberghas won a very considerable reputation as a soloist and as a chamber musician,as well as for his research into guitar repertoire and his resulting editionsand publications. He founded and directs the annual Blair Atholl Festival inScotland and enjoys a distinguished career on both sides of the Atlantic. Hisrecordings include an acclaimed set of ten discs devoted to the guitar works ofZani de Ferranti and a Bach Recital Album.

Item number 8550759
Barcode 730099575928
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Classical
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists John, Scott St.
Wynberg, Simon
John, Scott St.
Wynberg, Simon
Composers Paganini, Nicolo
Paganini, Nicolo
Disc: 1
Variazioni di bravura, on Caprice No. 24
1 Introduction - Larghetto
2 Cantabile - Andante sostenuto
3 Theme and Variations
4 Duetto amoroso
5 Minuetto - Adagio
6 Polonese
7 Larghetto espressivo
8 Allegro spiritoso
9 Adagio maestoso
10 Andante galantemente
11 La Sinagoga - Andante calando
12 Andantino con brio
13 Andante moderato
14 Allegro spiritoso
15 Largo con precisione
16 Tempo di Walzer
17 Cantabile and Valse
18 Variazioni di bravura, on Caprice No. 24
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