One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger


Some items
to consider

in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati







Alternatively Crotchet  AmazonUK  


Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Complete Chamber Music
see end of review for details
rec. Dynamic studios, Genoa 1992-2007
DYNAMIC CDS 553/1-10 [10 CDs: 642:55]
Experience Classicsonline

Dynamic, the independent Italian record label, based close to Paganini’s birthplace in Genoa, has compiled this ten disc set of their previously issued Paganini recordings. It seems that several of these recordings were receiving their first recording. Although this box includes the complete edition of Paganini’s fifteen quartets for strings and guitar; the three string quartets and a number of other chamber works there is certainly much of Paganini’s chamber music not included here. It omits the large amount of chamber music that Paganini wrote for guitar and violin, solo guitar and for solo violin. There are seventy or so duets for violin and guitar, including the familiar Sonata concertata, MS2, Grand Sonata, MS3 and the Cantabile, MS109. In addition Paganini wrote over a hundred scores for solo guitar. Dynamic have issued discs of a sizeable number of Paganini’s works for violin and guitar and a disc of some of his solo guitar scores.AB The Arts Music label on Red Line has four volumes of the solo guitar music.C With regard to the solo violin music there are many available versions. For the Dynamic label Stefan Milenkovich has recorded the complete music for solo violin - released in 2004 on CDS 402/1-2.
Paganini holds an esteemed status as probably the world’s finest ever virtuoso violinist but his chamber music compositions are, with minor exceptions, almost totally ignored. It is often forgotten that Paganini also played and composed for the guitar. In fact, of the five opus numbers published during his lifetime only the op. 1 set of 24 Caprices for Solo Violin did not include the guitar. It may come as a surprise that Paganini also wrote a sacred choral score entitled Le couvent du mont St. Bernard for violin, chorus and orchestra. I have yet to hear it but it was given its first recording by the Dynamic label.D
I have previously reviewed five of the ensemble scores with guitar that are contained on this release on two volumes of recordings from the German based Ambitus label (Vol. 1 AMB97977 and Vol. 2 AMB96899).
It seems that Paganini wrote chamber music from an early age and continued to do so regularly throughout his life. Often he would compose whilst on tour as a virtuoso performer during the long and arduous coach journeys. Biographer Danilo Prefumo has written that, “Paganini’s chamber music is the genuine expression of the more private side of this composer’s musicality … The general neglect of Paganini’s chamber music is highlighted by the fact that for many decades a large number of the scores have not been generally available for performance. For example his three string quartets MS20 were published as recently as 1976 with a performing edition in 1991; some hundred and fifty years after their composition.
In addition to his fame for composing for the violin Paganini also wrote a substantial amount of music for the guitar. The majority of the scores on this Dynamic release include the guitar. Swiss composer Franz von Wartensee, an associate of Paganini, wrote in his memoirs, “Not everyone knows that Paganini was a first-rate guitarist, since he did not consider it worth the effort to present himself publicly as such.” The sources of information that I have checked are rather vague on the origins and dates of Paganini’s attraction to the guitar. I understand that the main influence was his father Antonio who was himself a mandolin player and it is likely that from an early age Paganini would have received instruction from Antonio. It seems that from around 1801, during the few years that Paganini lived with a wealthy lady on her country estate in Tuscany, his energies were principally channelled into guitar study and composition.
On the whole the music on this Dynamic series is characteristic, lyrical and immensely enjoyable. These scores have a propensity for delivering entertainment rather than cherishing pretensions of greatness; those wanting significant emotional depth to their music should look elsewhere.
Comprising seventy percent of the set the fifteen Quartets for strings and guitar (CDs 1-5); the three Strings quartets (CD 7) and the five Trios for strings and guitar (CD 6) follow a similar sound-world and design. Here Paganini’s typical four movement plan predominantly consists of a quick and entertaining opening movement Allegro followed by a lively and carefree second movement Minuet that verges on a Scherzo. The slow third movement is expressive, aria-like and sweetly lyrical, marked Adagio or Andante. Concluding the score is a brisk and spiritedly ebullient Allegro or Presto that sometimes employs the stricter form of a Rondo.
I especially enjoyed the Theme and eight Variations for two violins and cello, MS117 (CD 8) - an unusual and pleasurable score with a noble theme, followed by a set of eight variations containing a wide range of moods. The twenty one Divertimenti carnevaleschi for two violins and cello, MS4 (CD 8) are a substantial set of short and varied scores.
Included on the final disc is the four Nocturnes for two violins, viola and cello, MS15 (CD 10). Each of the Nocturnes opens with an expressive slow movement that precedes a brisk and lithe dance-like movement. Two interesting and amiable scores are the Sonata per Rovene per mandolino e chitarra (Serenata per Rovene in E minor for mandolin and guitar), MS14 and the Serenata per mandolino e chitarra (Serenata in G major for mandolin and guitar), MS16. Both scores are cast in two brief movements with the mandolin taking the leading role. In a way similar to the four Nocturnes, MS15 a slow movement is followed by a movement of a swifter pace. The final work on the set the Minuetto per l’amandorlino per mandolino solo (Minuet in E major for solo mandolin), MS106 is a rather uninspiring three movement affair.
To be candid these works although interesting and highly appealing are not candidates to become staples of the chamber repertoire and are unlikely to be taken up by the leading ensembles on the international stage. Notwithstanding the numerous four movement scores, I found many of the other works such as the three Duets for violin and cello; the twenty one Divertimenti carnevaleschi for two violins and cello; the substantial three Duets for violin and bassoon; the Sonata per Rovene per mandolino e chitarra and the Serenata per mandolino e chitarra contained surprises both in terms of layout, employment of instrumentation and musical content.
Generally, I was fascinated by how Paganini’s writing can sometimes display a certain vulgarity and the next minute I could be enchanted by his charm and warmth. I found it frequently difficult to forecast what Paganini would do next and this unpredictability is a characteristic that was highly pleasing.
Dynamic have employed some nineteen different players over the fifteen year span of these recordings. Violinists: Bruno Pignata the leader of the Quartetto Paganini performs on a large number of the scores; Stefan Milenkovich displays his undoubted prowess on disc 8 and the renowned international soloist and Paganini champion Salvatore Accardo plays on the Three Duets for violin and bassoon (CD 9). It is clear from these interpretations that the players relish the attractive writing. Throughout I was impressed by the matching of the players, their blend of ensemble and choice of pace. Overall finesse, eloquence and tonal beauty are not words that I would use to describe these performances although the playing is consistently characterful, and often glowing and delightful. I especially enjoyed the effervescent performances of the allegros of the quintets and quartets and was impressed that the momentum of the slow movements is never allowed to wane.
Generally the sound quality has been produced to a decent standard, clean and bright with just a slight lack of depth. However, on CD 9 I found the Three Duets for violin and bassoon to be rather too brightly lit and I had to resort to considerable adjustment of the line-out-level on my disc player. There is an interesting and well written essay in the accompanying booklet by Danilo Prefumo; yet I was left wanting more information on the actual scores.
These rarely encountered chamber music scores from the Genoese Maestro are certainly worthy of investigation.
Michael Cookson
A Paganini: Complete works for violin and guitar:
Centone di Sonate, MS112; Cantabile in re maggiore, MS109; Sonate di Lucca, MS9, 10, 11, 12, 13; 6 Sonate di Lucca, MS133; 6 Sonate di Lucca, MS134; Duetto Amoroso, MS111; Entrata d’Adone nella reggia di Venere, MS8; Sei Sonate, MS26; Sei Sonate, MS27; Moto Perpetuo, MS72; Sonata concertata, MS2; Cantabile e Waltz, MS45; Variazioni sul Barucabà, MS71; Sei Duetti, MS110; Carmagnola con variazioni, MS1; Grande sonata concertata, MS3. Luigi Alberto Bianchi (violin) and Maurizio Preda (guitar) on a 9 disc box set on Dynamic CDS 466/1-9.
B Paganini: Complete Ghiribizzi For Solo Guitar, MS 43
43 Ghiribizzi, MS 43 (c.1820)
Adriano Sebastiani (guitar) on Dynamic CDS555.
C Paganini: Guitar Works
Frédéric Zigante (guitar) has recorded four volumes of Paganini’s solo guitar music on the Arts Music label’s Red Line series: Cat No. 47192-2 (Vol. 1); Vol. 247193-2 (Vol 2); 47194-2 (Vol. 3) and 47195-2 (Vol. 4).
D Paganini: Sacred choral score
Le couvent du mont St. Bernard for violin, chorus and orchestra that Dynamic have released on CDS027 (c/w Piece for horn, bassoon and orchestra, Tarantella for violin and orchestra).

Full details

CD 1: Complete Quartets for strings and guitar, Vol. 1 [67:16]
Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op.4/1, MS28 [21:41]
Quartet No. 9 in D major, MS36 [21:42]
Quartet No. 10 in A major, MS37 [23:53]

CD 2: Complete Quartets for strings and guitar, Vol. 2 [63:47]
Quartet No. 11 in B major, MS38 [20:28]
Quartet No. 12 in A minor, MS39 [23:33]
Quartet No. 13 in F major, MS40 (1819) [19:46]

CD 3: Complete Quartets for strings and guitar, Vol. 3 [68:53]
Quartet No. 3 in A major, Op. 4/3, MS30 [21:21]
Quartet No. 7 in E major, MS34 [26:04]
Quartet No. 14 in A major, MS41 [21:27]

CD 4: Complete Quartets for strings and guitar, Vol. 4 [64:03]
Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 4/2, MS29 [18:56]
Quartet No. 8 in A major, MS35 [23:03]
Quartet No. 15 in A minor, MS42 [22:04]

CD 5: Complete Quartets for strings and guitar, Vol. 5 [74:17]
Quartet No. 4 in D major, Op.5/1, MS31 [24:21]
Quartet No. 5 in D major, Op. 5/2, MS32 [24:20]
Quartet No. 6 in D minor, Op. 5/3, MS33 [25:36]

CD 6: Complete Trios for strings and guitar [65:29]
Serenata in C major for viola, cello and guitar, MS17 [15:10]
Terzetto Concertante in D major for viola, cello and guitar, MS114 [22:55]
Terzetto in D major for viola, cello and guitar, MS69 [20:12]
Terzetto in A minor for 2 violins and guitar, MS116 [03:03]
Serenata in F major for 2 violins and guitar, MS115 [04:09]

CD 7: Complete String Quartets, MS20 [64:55]
String Quartet No. 1 (c.1815) [19:02]
String Quartet No. 2 (c.1815) [23:00]
String Quartet No. 3 (c.1815) [22:53]

CD 8: Works for violin/s and cello [67:00]
In cor più non mi sento, theme and variations for two violins and cello, [08:15]
Three Duets for violin and cello:
Duet No.1 [09:13]
Duet No.2 [09:49]
Duet No.3 [09:21]
21 Divertimenti carnevaleschi for 2 violins and cello, MS4 [30:22]

CD 9: Three Duets for violin and bassoon, MS130 [50:08]
Duet No.1 [16:57]
Duet No.2 [16:52]
Duet No.3 [16:19]

CD 10: Quattro Notturni a quartetto, MS15 and other works [57:07]
Quattro Notturni a quartetto for two violins, viola and cello, MS15:
Notturno No. 1, [06:28]
Notturno No. 2, [07:11]
Notturno No. 3, [04:14]
Notturno No. 4, [03:31]
Quartet No. 7 in E major for two violins, viola and cello, MS34 (transcription from quartet for strings and guitar) [22:49]
Sonata per Rovene per mandolino e chitarra, MS14 [02:56]
Serenata per mandolino e chitarra, MS16 [02:53]
Minuetto per l’amandorlino per mandolino solo, MS106 [07:05]

Quartetto Paganini: Bruno Pignata (violin), Lorenzo Lugli (viola), Paola Mosca (cello), Giuseppe Briasco (guitar) (CDs 1-3).
Quartetto Paganini: Bruno Pignata (violin), Ernest Braucher (viola), Riccardo Agosti (cello), Giuseppe Briasco (guitar) (CDs 4 & 5).
Dora Bratchkova (violin), Götz Hartmann (violin), Antonello Farulli (viola), Andrea Noferini (cello), Adriano Sebastiani (guitar) (CD 6).
Quartetto d’archi Paganini: Bruno Pignata (violin), Gian Luca Allocco (violin), Ernest Braucher (viola), Dario De Stefano (cello) (CD 7).
Stefan Milenkovich (violin), Riccardo Agosti (cello), Pier Domenico Sommati (second violin) (CD 8).
Salvatore Accardo (violin), Claudio Gonella (bassoon) (CD 9).
Quartetto d’archi Paganini: Bruno Pignata (violin), Gian Luca Allocco (violin), Ernest Braucher (viola), Dario De Stefano (cello), Dorina Frati (Genoese mandolin), Piera Dadomo (guitar) (CD 10).


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.