New Release: Rachel Barton Pine’s Bel Canto Paganini

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 …

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10 Musical Adaptations of “God Save the Queen”

On Monday, Britain celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire Jubilee, marking her 65 years on the throne. At 90, Her Majesty is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. The milestone reminded me of the nearly 140 composers who have created musical adaptations of God Save the Queen, an ancient melody that may have originated in plainchant long before it was attributed to the English composer and organ-builder John Bull in 1619. Here are ten of the most …

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Salvatore Accardo and the Spirit of Paganini

It’s hard to imagine any better recordings of Paganini than those of Italian violinist Salvatore Accardo (b. 1941). Accardo was the winner of the 1958 Paganini Competition. His playing not only demonstrates technical mastery of Paganini, it sparkles with the effortless and fun-loving spirit of Italian opera. You can hear this in his performance of the First Violin Concerto. Listen to his recording of the Twenty-Four Caprices here and here . Here is …

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The Elegant Artistry of Arthur Grumiaux

Elegance, good taste and a beautiful, bell-like singing tone were all characteristics of Franco-Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986). In contrast to today’s relatively homogenized violin playing, Grumiaux exhibits a distinctly French style. Listening to Grumiaux, I’m also struck by the musical honesty and lack of fussiness in his playing. His musical phrases speak with a purity and simplicity which is hard to come by today. In his book, Great Masters of the …

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Music of the Hunt

(above: “Vanity Sounds the Horn and Ignorance Unleashes the Hounds Overconfidence, Rashness, and Desire” (from The Hunt of the Frail Stag), Dutch tapestry, 1500–1525) The sound of horns and trumpets evokes ancient and sometimes subconscious associations. Horns were used during the hunt to call hounds because their sound was similar to the human voice but could carry for great distances. Trumpets served as a way to communicate on the battlefield during military campaigns. …

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Witches’ Dance

Suzuki violin students learn the theme from Witches’ Dance in Book 2. Here is the original piece by Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840). Through his virtuosity, Paganini transformed violin playing. Audiences at the time were shocked by the new sounds and dazzling effects which he employed. He toured Europe garnering celebrity comparable to a modern day rock star. Listen to this spectacular performance by Eugene Fodor. This clip is taken from his 1990’s recording, Witches’ Brew which …

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Great Violinists on Video

Here are some inspiring violin videos from Youtube.  As a violinist, I always enjoy soaking up the musicianship of a variety of players, as well as analyzing the way each player uniquely approaches the instrument. We’ll start with Humoresque in G-Flat Major by the Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904).  This is a piece that Suzuki students know from Book 3.  Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma are accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, …

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