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Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
24 Caprices Op. 1 for solo violin
Lisa Jacobs (violin)
rec. 2017/2018, Cunerkerk, Rhenen, Netherlands
COBRA RECORDS COBRA0064 [47:18+39:46]

Dutch violin virtuoso Lisa Jacobs is known for her passionate performances, interesting programs and communicative qualities on stage. She is equally at home on the concert stage in concertos, chamber music, recitals and solo works. At the age of only 17 she made her successful debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Chailly. She has played all around the world ever since, both as a soloist with renowned orchestras and conductors, as a recitalist with her pianist Ksenia Kouzmenko and at chamber music festivals.

The Paganini Caprices don’t always offer a particularly agreeable listening experience. They are virtuoso pieces that are designed to show off the capabilities of the violin and the technical prowess of the violinist. The results are often displeasing to the average listener due to the ugly double stopping, excruciating leaps, comical pizzicato effects and hair raising harmonics. They are amazing studies and represent the technical Mount Everest of the violin repertoire but are they musically satisfying? Well quite often the answer is no but Lisa Jacobs could well convert a few listeners to the cause with this remarkable new recording. A clue to her general approach can be seen from the timings. Taking a few recordings at random: Ricci/Vox 61 mins; Kaler/Naxos 79 mins and Spivakovsky/Omega 79 mins. Lisa Jacobs clocks in at 87 minutes and her recording spills over to 2 CDs. The benefit of these generally relaxed tempi in the new Jacobs set is that the music has time to sing. She concentrates on the musicality and cantabile qualities that many of the caprices possess. The fast, virtuoso passages and special effects aren’t played as a showy firework display to amaze the listener. They are presented as part of the narrative and, surprise, surprise, there is hardly an ugly note to be heard. The violin always projects a gentle, beautiful tone but make no mistake, the technique is immaculate. Other players may generate more excitement and make the caprices sound more demanding in terms of virtuosity but this young lady plays them with proper musicality and charm whilst also being technically flawless. She’s in complete control and she actually makes the music sound relatively easy to play. That is some achievement.

This set completely overshadows many a version by star players from an earlier generation. Maybe some will criticise the approach and expect more in terms of sheer excitement from these devilish little miniatures but I for one love the musicality on display. This goes to the top of the list of my own personal recommended recordings

John Whitmore

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