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Walter W. from SAINT PETERS, PA
Reviewed on 3/8/2008...
Very interesting,exciting,emotional music
Paganini would be stunned and mortified!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All too often we hear people or critics remark that so-and-so's technique or rendering of such-and-such a finger-twisting gymnastic piece is "immaculate", "impeccable", "spotless", or "scrupulously clean". For instance, Henry Roth asserts (in his book, Violin Virtuosos, p.277) that Michael Rabin's Paganini caprices are "impeccable . . . collectively are fully equal to, or even possibly surpass any recorded before or since". Apparently these people have redefined the aforementioned adjectives, meaning something like "being able to play 90-95% of the notes in tune." This is understandable since it is generally agreed that no human being could play these fiendish pieces absolutely flawless. Yet what adjectives are these people going to use when a teenage violinist appears and plays 99.8% of the notes with bull's-eye intonation? This rare, resplendent and venerable virtuoso is the 17-year-old Midori. Not only are almost all the notes in tune, but every type of technique--staccato, ricochet, sautille, spiccato, pizzicato and legato--is exemplary. The tone is by and large exceptionally pellucid, sleek, refined, touching, and sometimes glutinous--which is to become one of her hallmarks in her ensuing discs; yet one blemish occasionally mars the celestial aura: on dexterous G-string passages, she often seems to apply too much bow pressure, incurring nasty rough noise on her Dominant string. (This defect is seldom found in her other recordings, partly because she switched to a better Guarnerius, the one she has been playing ever since.) Nonetheless, compared with other versions (e.g. those by Perlman, Rabin, or Accardo), her overall tone is unparalleled. Irreproachable technique and gorgeous timbre are, of course, prerequisite for a sterling rendition of these bravura showpieces. Yet these attributes serve merely to impress the audience, and the once scintillating and awe-inspiring pyrotechnics are bound to pall after several listenings. Midori, however, does not fall victim to this symptom. Through her remarkable mind and hands, she miraculously transmutes many of these caprices into musical gems as well as virtuosic treasures, destitute of any vestige of superficiality. Unbelievable? Simply listen to Nos. 1, 2, 4, and you will experience a revelation. One cannot but marvel at the profound musicianship of this 17-year-old mature--not merely precocious--artist, playing these caprices as though they were Bach's sonatas. It's the superlative artistry that most sets this disc apart from others. Nos. 2, 3, 4, 11, 17, 18, 19 (except the G-string passage), 20 (wherein the sound of the D in the double stops is extraordinary--I could hardly believe it was produced by a violin, for it resembles that of a clarinet!), 21, and 24 are all played of enchanting beauty; Nos. 13 and 15 are rendered particularly seductive; the fundamentally etude-like Nos. 1, 12 and 16 are played with thoughtful phrasing and dynamics; in Nos. 7, 8, 9, and 14 she displays an admirable blend of robust virility with girlish friskiness, archness, and tenderness. Admittedly these simple words can never do justice to such matchless performances. Midori's unique interpretation of parts of two caprices merit special acclaim. In Caprice No. 24, the novel way of transition between variations 4 and 5 is indubitably more interesting than what Paganini had originally written. And her endeavour for perfection and variety is ever present in Caprice No. 9. Here Paganini specifies that the main themes are to imitate the sounds of the flute and horn, yet he wrote stop-notes throughout the pieces, rendering it impossible to sound akin to the flute. Towards the end of the recapitulation section, Midori audaciously elected to play the notes in the higher registers with the horrendously herculean and risky double-harmonics. This swashbuckling daredevil attempt proved to be of striking and wondrous effect, as each harmonic note was played stupendously immaculate, literally, and it's likely that the layperson would deem it the production of two flutes! Here Midori is paradoxically faithful to both the composer's intention and her own superior musical judgement and creativity. Caprice No. 5 is played gingerly with precision, yet cannot compete with the velocity, drive and thrill of Perlman's recording (one of the few better played numbers in the entire set). No. 6 is an appalling exercise of tremolo, and though the recording is impressive, it is inferior to Rabin's in terms of clarity. No. 10 is the only one I loathe, for the dull and monotonous music was exacerbated by the rough sound. But these are the only three unsatisfactory numbers in my view, and the whole set, collectively, far surpasses any version recorded before. This disc will transform your apathy towards Paganini into zest, or your zest into adoration--provided that you're a normal human being!"
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This disc is amazing. Midori's technical perfection here surpasses all caprices done by others. I was amazed by her tonal accuracy on all the super difficult double stoppings. She renders each caprice so beautifully. Also the recording quality is very good. Beautiful cathedral like accoustic. Midori's caprice is the best based on all the factors: technique, expression and sound quality.There is a person in the below who suggested Ruggiero Ricci as the best (must have commented based only on listening to the sound samples.) I am not sure how one can say Ricci's is perfect. It is actually far from perfect. Person who says Ricci's caprice is perfect cannot tell the right keys, tones or violin techniques. One good thing about Ricci is that he has some Paganini-esque personality, that is he loves to "show off." However, in Ricci's caprices there are just too many unberable moments where he is too rough and ignores all the notes where tonal accuracy is required. Bad for my ears once getting used to today's violinists technical levels. Ricci's caprices are total fun show pieces. (something like a rollercoaster ride) Michael Rabin's got a style in his caprices. His phrasing is much more sophisticated than Ricci or most of the violin players. Perlman is great, yet not as perfect as Midori. Also, I think he sounds too imposing on each note, pushing too much to the point where lacking in dimension. There is another great recording by James Ehnes. His 24 Caprice is fiery and it's got such a drive. Can be a good match for Midori's. So far, this disc still stands as the best of Paganini's 24 caprices."