Violinist Rachel Barton Pine tackles Paganini’s 24 Caprices with virtuosic flair and sonorous ease on her newest album, Bel Canto Paganini. The album’s title highlights the link between Paganini’s music and the “beautiful singing” melodic style of Italian opera composers like Rossini, Bellini, and Verdi. In addition to the Caprices, the two CD set includes a number of bonus tracks: Paganini’s Introduction and Variations on “Nel cor più non mi sento” from Paisiello’s La molinara, Duo merveille, Op. 6 “Duet for One” (In which a single, well-coordinated violinist plays the melody with the bow and accompaniment with pizzicato), Caprice d’Adieu, Op. 68, and Pine’s own composition paying homage to the technique-advancing music of Paganini and later violinists, Introduction, Theme and Variations on “God Defend New Zealand.”
Rachel Barton Pine plays a 1742 Guarneri del Gesú violin made in the same year and by the same maker as Paganini’s violin, “Il Cannone.” She uses a slightly lighter Tourte bow that resembles the kind of bow Paganini would have used. Pine talks about the bow and other aspects of the recording in this recent interview with Richmond Public Radio’s Mike Goldberg.
Caprice No. 9 in E Major “La chasse” suggests the open fifths of hunting horns:
Caprice No. 24 in A Minor “Tema con Variazioni” inspired numerous works by later composers. The sparkling drama and character of the music comes alive in an extraordinary way in this performance. We forget we’re listening to daredevil technical fireworks because we’re so distracted by music:
Photography by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco