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








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


cover image

CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
24 Caprices for solo violin
Julia Fischer (violin)
rec. August Everding Saal, Munich 1-5 September 2008; 8-9 April 2009
DECCA 478 2274 [79:42]

Experience Classicsonline

There is no doubting Julia Fischer’s special talent, but this recording of Paganini’s 24 Caprices is also a litmus test of her maturity as an artist. For a long time seen as one of the almost insurmountable feats of violin playing, this is the kind of music which can provide all of the show-off sparks which prove a violinist’s prowess. Fischer has said herself that, at a young age, she felt she’d become a ‘proper violinist’ after performing one of these pieces in front of an audience for the first time, but she has come a long way since then.

Describing the music of the caprices as a ‘musical poem’, Julia Fischer’s approach to this recording was to leave the technical challenges aside, putting the priority on examining the score, and finding the message in Paganini’s musical ideas. That this is a technical tour de force pretty much goes without saying, and there are very few places in which one feels Fischer’s technique is stretched in any way. The musical communication here is however pretty superlative. Fischer does succeed in making one forget that these are ‘etudes’, and the mind’s eye is filled with associations. There is plenty of the flavour of grand opera in many of the caprices, and effects such as the unison strings which open the Caprice No.3 for instance, have a very orchestral feel. This is perhaps also a reason why the more lyrical numbers, such as the Caprice No.11 are so very strong, the deeply expressive opening contrasted with real shining wit further on.

Yes, the music is all here and beautifully expressed, the technical mountain climbed and defeated in style. For us collectors it is not so much Paganini who needs to be defeated, if that’s the right word, but for each violinist preparing to record the 24 Caprices there is the spectre of Itzhak Perlman, whose EMI recording is the classic reference which has to be at the very least approached in terms of sheer style and panache. Julia Fischer is not quite as spectacular as Perlman, not quite as all-embracingly ‘nailed’ at every point, but this is not to diminish her qualities and achievement in this recording. She has given this set of the 24 Caprices a personal feel, and a heightened sense of vibrancy and musical life which transcends technical showmanship, and for this I am very grateful indeed. Her own ideas are to be found in little subtleties and inflections all over the place, but the most obvious to many will be the use of a mute in the Caprice No.6. Recording the piece both without and, ignoring its absence in the score, with a mute, Fischer states “the one with the mute clearly sounded better and more logical.” She further remarks, correctly in my view, “why shouldn’t a composer who spent his whole life exhaustively exploring the possibilities of violin playing... not also have used a mute?” This is always part of the point when it comes to the written music which would have been played by its composer. Who can say what they did to vary their own compositions, what ‘of the moment’ inspirations came along on the way, what innovations or even bad habits didn’t develop over the years. One thing on which I would bet good money, such artists didn’t and don’t do the exactly same thing every time, and the haunting sonorities of the Caprice No.6 with mute would very likely have been adopted by Paganini as a Halloween special, even if he hadn’t come up with the idea himself.

The recording itself is set in a pleasantly resonant acoustic, the violin close up and detailed, but not uncomfortably so. At nearly 80 minutes this might have been a challenge to listen to, let enough play, but Julia Fischer’s inventiveness and style all make for a narrative which carries one along very nicely. She is awake to the relationships each caprice has to the next, and the flow of the cycle has a sense of logic and pace which is convincing enough. The famous final Caprice No.24 has indeed a sense of arrival and closure, and is not just another set of variations. Some of Fischer’s moments in this are the kind to raise goose-pimples, and her light and subtly varied touch is a delight throughout this recording. Even if you have Perlman and feel this won’t beat it, think again. This isn’t about ‘beating’ anyone but is all about the music, which you may find yourself discovering anew. I bet she doesn’t really play in those shoes though.

Dominy Clements

Detailed Tracklist
No. 1 in E major: Andante ‘L’arpeggio’ [1:47]
No. 2 in B minor: Moderato [2:50]
No. 3 in E minor: Sostenuto - Presto [3:19]
No. 4 in C minor: Maestoso [6:14]
No. 5 in A minor: Agitato [2:46]
No. 6 in G minor: [Adagio] [5:59]
No. 7 in A minor: Posato [3:51]
No. 8 in E flat major: Maestoso [3:01]
No. 9 in E major: Allegretto 'La chasse' [3:11]
No. 10 in G minor: Vivace [2:17]
No. 11 in C major: Andante - Presto [4:32]
No. 12 in A flat major: Allegro [3:18]
No. 13 in B flat major: Allegro ‘The Devil’s Laughter’ [2:27]
No. 14 in E flat major: Moderato [1:18]
No. 15 in E minor: Posato [2:47]
No. 16 in G minor: Presto [1:37]
No. 17 in E flat major: Sostenuto - Andante [3:47]
No. 18 in C major: Corrente. Allegro [2:33]
No. 19 in E flat major: Lento - Allegro assai [3:10]
No. 20 in D major: Allegretto [3:53]
No. 21 in A major: Amoroso [2:59]
No. 22 in F major: Marcato [2:48]
No. 23 in E flat major: Posato [4:44]
No. 24 in A minor: Tema con variazioni. Quasi presto [4:28]


























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

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.