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Gringolts’ Provocative Paganini Caprices

Jed Distler

Artistic Quality:

Sound Quality:

In a booklet interview included with Ilya Gringolts’ recording of Paganini’s 24 Caprices, the violinist explains how he aims to treat these works as music rather than showpieces. Indeed, Gringolts’ heavily italicized phrasings, varied accentuations, wide dynamic contrasts, and avoidance of glitter for glitter’s sake might baffle listeners accustomed to the more straightforward surface panache of Perlman, Ehnes, and Midori. Certain gestures, to be sure, cross that thin line between expression and mannerism, such as No. 1’s arguably artificial crescendos and diminuendos, No. 2’s little breath pauses between phrases, or the teasing rhythmic holdbacks that disrupt No. 14’s marching pulse.

Yet more often than not, Gringolts sheds new light on familiar ground. The offhand quality characterizing his asymmetrical phrasing of No. 24’s famous theme makes the first variation’s descending triplets sound even fiercer by contrast, while the octave variation is imaginatively inflected. By largely emphasizing the zigzagging pattern’s top notes, Gringolts creates a lithe and shimmering impression throughout No. 12. He spices up No. 16’s dazzling arpeggiated figurations with accents that underline the music’s harmonic tension to an arresting degree. In No. 13, many violinists milk the “laughing” effect implied by the detached descending chromatic thirds, whereas Gringolts’ light touch and animated pace treats them as a lead-in to measure four’s accented down beat, which is more in keeping with Paganini’s “dolce” indication. Whether or not this release will appeal to all tastes, Gringolts undoubtedly conveys his conceptions with a probing musical mind and effortless technical authority that command attention and respect.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Perlman (EMI), Ehnes (Onyx), Rabin (EMI)

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