New Release of the Week: 'Bel canto Paganini'

May 29, 2017

Classical IPR’s New Release of the Week is the 35th album by violinist Rachel Barton Pine. The centerpiece of the album, “Bel Canto Paganini,” is Pine’s performance of Niccolò Paganini’s 24 caprices for solo violin.


Of the 24 Paganini caprices, Pine says in the album’s liner notes, “I always felt that the Caprices tell an incredible story and that hearing them in their entirety reveals something about the violin and about Paganini that is lost when hearing isolated Caprices.” It took her several years to build up to playing all 24 caprices in a row in concert, and this album marks the first time an American-born woman violinist has recorded all 24 caprices.


Pine plays the music on the Joseph Guarneri del Gesú (Cremona 1742), a violin on lifetime loan to her. Her violin was manufactured the same year and by the same maker as Paganini’s own violin, “Il Cannone.” To perform Paganini’s music on this album, Pine also used a Tourte bow, the same kind that Paganini would have used in the nineteenth century. Her interpretation is informed by her study of bel canto, which was the operatic singing style popular at the same time Paganini composed the works on this album.


“Bel Canto Paganini” includes three other Paganini works for solo violin, as well as a work of Pine’s own composition, the “Introduction, Theme and Variations on ‘God Defend New Zealand.’” Pine’s composition is inspired by Paganini’s composition approach in which he created virtuosic sets of themes and variations.