Dynamic, the independent Italian record label, based close to
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
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.
A Paganini: Complete works for violin and guitar:
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
Ghiribizzi, MS 43 (c.1820)
Sebastiani (guitar) on Dynamic CDS555.
C Paganini: Guitar Works
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
Quattro Notturni a quartetto for two violins, viola and
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)
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).