is by now well-known that Paganini, besides being the wizard
of the violin, was also a skilled guitarist. Colin Cooper
in his insightful liner-notes, quotes the master, saying: “I
love the guitar for its harmony; it is my constant companion
in all my travels”. But he also said: “I do not like this
instrument, but regard it simply as a way of helping me
to think”. He wrote quite a large quantity of music for
violin and guitar, not least the Centone di Sonate
fairly simple guitar parts. On the other hand the Grand
opening this disc, originally had a violin part “of
extreme simplicity”. This was necessary as when he and
Legnani had their joint recitals they used to exchange
instruments; Legnani was no violin virtuoso while Paganini’s
guitar playing was on an altogether higher level. As applies
to most of Paganini’s oeuvre this composition is no masterpiece.
It is nevertheless pleasant to listen to. Paganini had
a certain melodic gift, as can be heard in the sonata’s
second movement, a Romanze
in 6/8 time, simple and
easy on the ear. The last movement, Andantino variato
is a set of variations, getting ever more virtuosic. It
is easy to believe that Paganini must have stunned his
audiences with playing of this calibre. I wonder if he
was on the level of Havana-born Marco Tamayo, who plays
with easy assurance on this disc. The usual noises from
the fingerboard can be heard but not to such a degree that
they take away the pleasure of listening. Recorded at that
guitarists’ Mecca, St John Chrysostom Church at Newmarket,
Ontario the sound is lifelike and agreeable.
is by far the longest composition on the disc.
The other sonatas are short, two-movement pieces, entertaining
but not particularly memorable. No. 4 is lively, ditto
No. 30 while No. 6 has a dreamy slow movement followed
by a naughty allegretto. The longest of them, No. 14,
begins with a fast minuet, then a waltz, slow and hesitant
with some tremolo accompaniment, changing to the minor
for the middle section and finally a short reprise of
the first waltz – actually a piece that stands out from
meaning whims, fancies or caprices, are charming and inventive
miniatures that I wouldn’t mind hearing as concert encores.
There are a total of 43 and in several of them he uses
themes from other composers: Paisiello (No. 16), Rossini
(No. 37) and also Mozart and Süssmayr.
real tour de force
is the group of three Caprices
solo violin, placed last on the disc. They become veritable
fireworks in Mr Tamayo’s hands and they are really impressive.
He never smudges a run and the last, No. 24, the one everybody
knows, is inventively “orchestrated”. He uses a great deal
of rubato, which probably Paganini also would have done,
had he ever played it.
Arts label appear to be in the process of recording the
complete Paganini guitar music, but I have not been able
to hear anything else of it so far. Anyway it’s good to
have this music available at affordable Naxos price. No
one need hesitate on the grounds of playing and recording.
see also review by Zane Turner