Recordings of the 24
Caprices aren’t commonplace, even in
these days of digitally advanced virtuosi.
Renardy and Ricci were the pioneers
of this repertoire on disc and Rabin,
Erlih, Accardo and Perlman have assumed
the mantle since. Sonig Tchakerian is
an Armenian-born Italian citizen who
pursued advanced studies with Accardo
and Gulli, two masters of the modern
Italian School, and with Nathan Milstein
in Zurich. She has performed the Caprices
in concert on a number of occasions
and has recorded a substantial amount
of the trio repertoire with the Trio
Italiano of which she was a member.
The challenges of course
are wincingly hard. Moreover this is
an Audiophile recording, using the much-touted
24-bit/96 kHz range and which, while
promising clarity and "unrivalled
ambience" can sound very forward,
unrelieved and not especially sympathetic
to Tchakerian’s tone (and do we really
need to know the name of the manufacturers
of the microphone cables?) All this
means that her tone sounds rather scrappy
and rough in No. 1 and gives one the
distinct impression of compromised intonation.
In No. 3 she is slower than, say, Ricci
in his 1950s recording (she is almost
invariably slower) but shows better
tonal judgement than he did. Fine though
she often plays there are places where
she doesn’t cultivate enough colour
(No. 4) and lacks the necessary theatrical
panache (No. 5) in some of the maestoso
sections. In the Allegretto of No. 9
she doesn’t really characterise the
passages tightly enough and there’s
perhaps a lack of incision in No. 10,
where Ricci’s devilry wins out. But
she is elegant – if a trifle over emphatic
– in No. 13 and despatches the trumpet
effects of No. 18 with understanding,
and takes a nice, flowing tempo in No.
20, though in so doing she does downplay
the drone effect. Debits are the effortful
registral leaps in the wicked E minor
(No. 15) and the spartan "dialogue"
in No. 23 – where things should be a
lot more active.
The notes are rather
florid. Tchakerian’s is a thoughtful
and musical account of the Caprices.
Allegiances though will not shift; Perlman
is a superb contemporary account, with
Ricci for explosive backup.