ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Nicolo Paganini - 24 Caprices

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NICCOLO PAGANINI - 24 CAPRICES - JAMES EHNES (Violin) - 880040404422 - ONYX 4044

When violinists attain a certain level of musicianship and record the Paganini Caprices, it would be safe to assume that they can now be described as masters of their instrument. So what would be an appropriate description when they record those virtuoso pieces a second time? Well in the case of James Ehnes, I wouldn't hesitate to describe him now as a wizard of the violin.

In 1995, he recorded these for the Telarc label, and now almost 15 years later has chosen to re-assess and record them again, this time on the Onyx label. In the booklet notes, James Ehnes himself explains that Paganini's skills as a melodist are on abundant display, a feature that is often neglected by performers because of the ferocious technical demands. So in this his second go-round, he addresses that neglect and brings to us not only an amazing display of technical wizardry, but also sheds light on the melodic lines within each piece, and therefore exposes the core, or genesis of each one.

The violin played in this recording is a 'Marsick' Stradivarius from 1715 that produces a beautiful sound with a strong core at the low end, and high notes that are pure silk. The Caprice No. 5 is a perfect example of just that. The recording itself captures the sound of the instrument very well, and surrounds it with just the right amount of air. A few of this violinist's recordings have already received various accolades and awards, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if this one attracted the same kind of response.

Jean-Yves Duperron