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Nicolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Concertos for violin and orchestra
No 3 in E Major (1826) [41.52]
No 4 in D Minor (1829) [33.48]
Ernö Rósza (violin). Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Dittrich
Recorded February 1999
NAXOS 8.554396 [75.39]
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The two concertos on this disc are among the six composed by Paganini, along with many other solo works for violin. All these compositions were intended for Paganini himself to play in concert and so, understandably, they provide above all an opportunity for display by a virtuoso.

Naxos claim that these recordings are "the first recordings of the uncut original versions of both Concertos as played by Paganini himself." Therein, I fear lies a problem, at least as far as the Third Concerto is concerned. Though Paganini was a violinist of the first rank he was not in the same league as a composer and some of the material in both concertos is on the thin side. Frankly, both works are too long and would benefit from judicious editing.

The Third Concerto is particularly extended. The first movement, based on a slightly banal march theme lasts an astonishing 22 minutes. During this time Paganini seems to employ every trick in the fiddler's book and the soloist here, Ernö Rósza takes full advantage. Rósza himself supplies all the cadenzas for both works and he certainly enters into the spirit in every sense - the first movement cadenza for the Third Concerto lasts a few seconds short of seven minutes!

In the slow movement of this concerto Rósza proves that he has more to offer than mere virtuosity. The movement in question is a much less self-indulgent cantabile, which Rósza plays beautifully.

I would agree with the author of the sleeve notes that the Fourth Concerto is more lyrical than its predecessor. It is also significantly shorter and, I think, all the better for that. Certainly, I enjoyed it more.

Throughout the programme Rósza plays with great skill and technical accomplishment. When Paganini presents him with an opportunity for more lyrical expression he displays a lovely singing tone. I hope Naxos will record him in some more rewarding repertoire. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Michael Dittrich accompany efficiently.

John Quinn

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