Twenty Four Caprices for Violin and Caprice dAdieu

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I wouldn't always master them, but just by doing them, I would go back to the violin and it would seem easy by comparison. As long as you listen to your body and don't strain yourself, it really helps. It's like you get twice the usefulness of practicing in half the time! I find it one of the most challenging caprices -- not to play, but to make an effective musical statement with. To transcend the technique, make all those octaves be at the service of something bigger. And to also shape the middle section so it doesn't just sound like muddle. It's a great testament to Paganini as an artist.

It shows you the more serious direction he might have gone, if he had lived during a different era.

He was earning his living by appealing to the popular tastes, and he would write flashy variations on tunes people knew and loved. If you think about Paganini preceding Lizst: what if he had continued along that path and taken it farther, instead of setting that aside and going in the more popular direction? There's a lot of polyphony going on in those 32nd-note sections, with all those dastardly double-stops. Later on, in No. In No.

Even the passages of 10ths serve a structural purpose, they aren't just for show. They have a musical line to them. But they really add an extra level of drama, when you do them. For example, Caprice No. The main challenge for violinists is Paganini's original bowing: ricochet, in groups of three down bows followed by one up.

The first time I tried to do down-bow ricochet, it was right there. As opposed to up-bow staccato, which I was absolutely not born with! I had to sweat and fight for months for every notch on the metronome! Sort of like No. I think of it as almost impressionistic, and very gorgeous.


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All of them begin with melodic octaves, so there is clearly a particular type of character that he's indicating -- it's a very unusual marking, and he uses it three times in his cycle. And yet, it's a real finger-twister; it's among the harder ones to master, in terms of practicing and preparing it. Then you don't get the credit for it!

It's hard to make it fluid, to make it sing. Because it is quite awkward, you have to put in a lot of time, and you have to find enough in the music to motivate you to do that. It's one of the dark horses of the cycle, I think, but I always enjoy coming back to it. In fact, Rossini said that if Paganini ever wrote opera, he'd 'put the rest of us out of business' -- a statement which attests to Rossini's high opinion of Paganini as a composer of melody.

Those guys respected him as an artist, as a musical voice. It makes perfect sense that Paganini would want his music to be performed in a melodic way, not just the crash-and-burn approach. Paganini included some bowings that people don't usually do -- "I think people just don't really understand what he wanted," Pine said. People tend to play it: Up down, up-up-down, up-up-down Which is much more choppy and makes for a less-long musical line.

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Paganini - Complete Caprices for violin - Alto: ALC - CD | Presto Classical

The original bowing makes the music flow. Sure, it's harder, but doing the original bowing changes the music into a more melodic-type of approach. It has a little more of a dark edge than No. The middle section -- here is another case where the original bowing is much harder, but totally worth it because it gives you a different feel in the music," Pine said. So no hooks, and even the running 16ths are backwards -- whoa, that's weird! But it actually gives it this special lift to the music, that lightness of touch, that you associate with the bel canto singers.

To hook the bowing - that's just ordinary, that's what a normal, less-creative composer would have done.

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The fact that it was hard to do the reverse-bowing was just a side-effect of the musical intent, not the point. It used to be my least-favorite; I thought it just was hard and annoying, and nothing much there," Pine said. The beauty of this caprice started to emerge for Pine after many years of playing it.

Of all the caprices that I recorded, I'm particularly happy with No. It's not because of the diabolical middle section; it's actually named after the outer section, which has these chromatic descending thirds that sound like somebody going, 'Heh heh heh heh!


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This Caprice is also the first in "Part 3" of the Caprices. Strangely enough, "Paganini, in his manuscript, titled groups of the Caprices into three sets: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Part 1 was Nos.


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I think it's because the last 12 are a little bit shorter, with da capos. So in terms of practice time, the three parts are actually pretty equal. It would be a great one to start a short set list because it's like a trumpet call, grabbing your attention. It has a great spirit to it. The arpeggios are so high up on the fingerboard and so tricky to get in tune that it's hard to make the same musical line that you just made with the octaves, but of course that is what you need to do, to make it effective.

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If it can retain the same melodic shape you created in the first part, then the B section is a big contrast, it's flashy. Then you go back to the A section. If you're performing it and you have a few out-of-tune notes here and there, you think, well at least I get another chance! If you make sure every single accent pings out from the texture -- again the transitional bow helps with that but you can certainly manage it with your modern bow -- that's what makes that Caprice cool.

When I practice, I'll play each one of those super-loud, with a really sharp accent, and then all the other notes pianissimo, to make sure I'm absolutely nailing every single one of those 'f's.

Niccolo Paganini - 24 Caprices Op.1

There's no one great solution. If you look at a whole variety of editions, you'll find a lot of different suggestions of how to approach the fingering of that middle section -- more fingered octaves; less fingered octaves; different ideas on where to change strings. This is definitely a case where looking at a lot of different ideas can be useful, to figure out what fingering works best for your hand. Once you find that, then commit to it, and practice your fingers off. It's just going to be super-hard. In the urtext , there's a big slur over the broken thirds on the eighth notes -- a slur with accents.

A lot of people do those as separate bows. Opening, Paganini Caprice No. Barenreiter Urtext. So it can be argued you can do what you want with them," Pine said. These slurs are one of those occasions.

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I find in most cases, what he does with the bowings is something less flashy and more melodic, or lyrical, or atmospheric. Now that definitely falls into the category of "'circus tricks'!

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