Tanja Becker-Bender has all the artistry and technical chops necessary
for this monument of the virtuoso repertoire. Her performance
is here caught in a red meat recording of towering power.
Paganini's 24 Caprices for solo violin have provided
the linguistic glossary for the violin repertoire. Tchaikovsky
and Sibelius are predicted through No. 5. Glazunov must have
known the Ninth before writing his Violin Concerto. Vivaldi
might well have been an influence on the young Paganini.
Some of the Caprices are concerned with velocity
and some with scudding effects. In others such as No. 18 it
is the imitative fanfaring qualities that matter. Becker-Bender
certainly has the wow factor. But by no means all of these pieces
are wrapped up in awe-inspiring virtuosity. Their staying power
would have been non-existent if they did not also have some
melodic pabulum. Listen for example to the lyrical address of
No. 4 and the hurdy-gurdy scrunch of No. 20. The balalaika effect
of No. 6 contrasts with the liturgical contours of No. 7. The
louche and slippery-casual No. 13 is superbly slid and nudged.
The piercing birdsong of No. 24 is given a burly power that
is always ripe and never skeletal or malnourished.
Becker-Bender can be heard breathing at times
but somehow this simply adds to the humanity and musicality
of these performances. Speaking of which hats off to Hyperion
and the musicality of their decisions for the good long pauses
There are truly excellent notes from Calum Macdonald.
I hope that we will hear more from Becker-Bender.
She is here heard playing a violin by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù
(Cremona, 1728), owned by ‘Blue de Brasil’ of the Fazenda Ipiranga,
on loan through the Instrument Fund of the German Music Foundation.
This is a very musical set of Caprices. For this
violinist the technical accomplishment required is a given and
is recognised only as the first plateau. The further ascent into
musical communication is what matters.
1 No 01 in E major: Andante 'L'arpeggio' [2'03]
2 No 02 in B minor: Moderato [3'08]
3 No 03 in E minor: Sostenuto – Presto [3'31]
4 No 04 in C minor: Maestoso [7'10]
5 No 05 in A minor: Agitato [3'02]
6 No 06 in G minor: [Adagio] [4'41]
7 No 07 in A minor: Posato [3'54]
8 No 08 in E flat major: Maestoso [3'28]
9 No 09 in E major: Allegretto 'La chasse' [3'03]
10 No 10 in G minor: Vivace [2'15]
11 No 11 in C major: Andante – Presto [3'44]
12 No 12 in A flat major: Allegro [2'26]
13 No 13 in B flat major: Allegro 'The Devil's Laughter' [2'37]
14 No 14 in E flat major: Moderato [1'58]
15 No 15 in E minor: Posato [3'07]
16 No 16 in G minor: Presto [1'30]
17 No 17 in E flat major: Sostenuto – Andante [3'46]
18 No 18 in C major: Corrente. Allegro [2'31]
19 No 19 in E flat major: Lento – Allegro assai [3'01]
20 No 20 in D major: Allegretto [2'53]
21 No 21 in A major: Amoroso [3'09]
22 No 22 in F major: Marcato [3'01]
23 No 23 in E flat major: Posato [5'11]
24 No 24 in A minor: Tema con variazioni. Quasi presto [4'33]