Nino Cotone’s Violin Caprices

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

The 24 solo violin caprices by composer/violinist Nino Cotone (born 1978) are basically a set of tuneful preludes in all 24 keys. Cotone employs a key scheme that starts in C major followed by a piece in its relative minor (A minor), then proceeding sequentially upward in fourths (F major/D minor, B-flat major/G minor, and so forth).

The C major wouldn’t be out of place in either Peter and the Wolf or a Nino Rota theme for a Fellini movie, while the A minor emerges as a tarantella. The F major is a series of asymmetric arpeggiated figurations. A violinist would be a sure-fire hit at a wedding by striking up the Hungarian Dance-like G minor caprice. The A-flat, on the other hand, is a curious combination of a faux Mendelssohn Song Without Words and an etude in double stops.

The B major begins like a middle-of-the-road pop tune (think of Alan Menken’s “Beauty and the Beast” or Don Mclean’s cheesy chestnut “Vincent”) but loses melodic focus once the arpeggios kick in. After a melodically bland start, the F-sharp minor shifts into dancing mode and becomes much more interesting. By contrast, the G major’s opening section offers quirky portamentos, yet the sequential patterns that follow say little beyond mere noodling.

Cotone is a proficient but rather colorless violinist, whose tone isn’t helped by the dry sonics. A truly vibrant and imaginative virtuoso would better be able to sell the music’s charm and accessibility, as well as minimize its limitations. At the very least, violinists might want to add one or two pieces from this cycle to diversify their unaccompanied portfolio.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for these works

  • Nino Cotone (violin)

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