Digital downloads of the Paganini 24 Caprices available exclusively from iTunes August 31 and both releases available in stores September 7
Violinist Julia Fischer’s recording of Paganini’s 24 Caprices will be released by Decca in the U.S. digitally on August 31 exclusively at the iTunes store with the recording available in stores September 7. On the same day, Decca will also release a DVD of Ms. Fischer’s 2008 professional piano debut performing the Grieg Piano Concerto at a concert at which she also performed the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3.
Ms. Fischer signed an exclusive recording contract with Decca in 2008 and her first album of Bach Concertos recorded with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields was released in January 2009. Ms. Fischer hopes that her new recording will help to dispel the reputation of Paganini’s 24 Caprices as merely virtuosic showpieces: “The Caprices represent 24 moods – little musical ideas, each one different, each one appealing.”
Ms. Fischer, now 27, first heard the 24 Caprices when she was eight years old at a children’s music course at which Austrian violinist Thomas Zehetmair performed: “I thought, these are the most difficult things a violinist can play. When I was 10, I learned my first Caprice – number 17 –and I felt like I was a real, true violinist.”
Ms. Fischer, internationally renowned for her interpretations of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach, attributes her discovery of Robert Schumann’s transcription of the sixth piece, the ‘Trill Caprice’, to her desire to seriously study Paganini and ultimately to record the Caprices: “Unlike many critics and biographers, Schumann did not perceive this man as a ‘Devil’s Fiddler’ or a circus act. He recognized the musical power of these 24 miniatures, and what a musical poem he made out of it (the Caprice No. 6).”
To prepare for the recording, made at Munich ’s August Everding Hall, Ms. Fischer says she put down her violin and set aside any thought of the technical challenges the pieces present: “I looked at the score and the musical background of the pieces, completely forgetting the technical challenges. After making a musical idea in my head, I then tried to make it work.”
In seeking to unlock the meaning and emotion of each piece, she deliberated over bowings, over phrasing, over figurations and, contrary to her usual practice, did not insist on following exactly what was written in the score. For example, she recorded Caprice No. 6 with a mute and without, even though there is no indication in the score of a mute: “The one with mute clearly sounded better and more logical. Why shouldn’t a composer who spent his whole life exhaustively exploring the possibilities of violin playing, who thought up mixed bowings and left-hand pizzicato, not also have used a mute?”
Ms. Fischer says Paganini’s contribution to music extends far beyond the violin: “I think that we really forget that most of the music of the 19th century we would not have without Nicolai Paganini.”