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Nicolò PAGANINI (1782 – 1840)
Guitar Music
Grand Sonata in A major [21:35]; Sonata No. 4 in D major [3:51]; Ghiribizzi [8:56]: Nos. 15; 16; 37; 38; 22; Sonata No. 30 in A major [3:11]; Sonata No. 6 in F major [4:15]; Sonata No. 14 in F major [5:09]; Three Caprices (originally for solo violin)[14:06]: Nos. 11; 5; 24
Marco Tamayo (guitar)
rec. St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 10-13 June 2004
NAXOS 8.557598 [61:04]
It 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 with fairly simple guitar parts. On the other hand the Grand sonata 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.
 
The Grand Sonata 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 the rest.
 
The Ghiribizzi, 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.
 
The real tour de force is the group of three Caprices for 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.
 
The 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.
 
Göran Forsling
 
see also review by Zane Turner

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