About this Recording
8.550649 - PAGANINI, N.: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (Kaler, Polish National Radio Symphony, Gunzenhauser)

Nicolo Paganini (1782 - 1840)

Violin Concerto No.1 in D Major, Op. 6
Violin Concerto No.2 in B Minor, Op. 7

Paganini's popular reputation rested always on his phenomenal technique as a violinist, coupled with a showman's ability to dominate an audience and to stupefy those who heard him by astonishing feats of virtuosity. His playing served as an inspiration to other performers in the nineteenth century, suggesting to Chopin, in Warsaw, the piano Etudes, and to Liszt the material of the Paganini studies that he w rote in 1838. The very appearance of Paganini impressed people. His gaunt aquiline features, his suggestion of hunched shoulders, his sombre clothing, gave rise to legends of association with the Devil, the alleged source of his power, an association supported by the frequent appearance by his side on his travels of his secretary, one Harris, thought by some to be a familiar spirit or a Mephistopheles watching over his Faust. Stories of a pact with the Devil were denied by Paganini himself, who, with characteristic understanding of the value of public relations in a more credulous age, told of an angelic visitation to his mother, in a dream, foretelling his birth and his genius.

Paganini was born in Genoa in 1782 and was taught the violin first by his father, an amateur, and then by a violinist in the theatre orchestra and by the better known violinist Giacomo Costa, under whose tuition he gave a public performance in 1794. The following year he played to the violinist and teacher Alessandro Rolla in Parma, and on the latter's suggestion studied composition there under Paer. After a return to Genoa and removal during the Napoleonic invasion, he settled in 1801 in Lucca, where, after 1805, he became solo violinist to the new ruler of Lucca, Princess Elisa Baciocchi, sister of Napoleon. At the end of 1809 he left to travel, during the next eighteen years, throughout Italy, winning a very considerable popular reputation. It was not until1828 that he made his first concert tour abroad, visiting Vienna, Prague and then the major cities of Germany, followed by Paris and London in 1831. His international career as a virtuoso ended in 1834, when, after an unsatisfactory tour of England, he returned again to Italy, to Parma. A return to the concert-hall in Nice and then, with considerable success, in Marseilles, was followed by an unsuccessful business venture in Paris, the Casino Paganini, which was intended to provide facilities equally for gambling and for music. With increasing ill health, he retired to Nice, where he died in 1840.

The six surviving violin concertos of Paganini, part of the stock-in-trade of a travelling virtuoso, were published posthumously, the last of them relatively recently. In general they follow the form of the romantic virtuoso concerto as developed by the violinist Viotti and by Spohr, allowing the soloist music of operatic virtuosity, an opportunity for technical and musical display. Concerto No.1 in D major, written, in fact, in E flat major, but generally transposed in performance to D major, was probably written in 1817, at a time when Paganini was enjoying enormous success in his native Italy, while arousing jealousy and suspicion in even measure from rival musicians. The concerto allows the soloist to demonstrate a high degree of technical proficiency, both in the handling of the bow, with its flying staccato, and in the demands made on the left hand, at the same time it shows a very Italian gift for melodic invention. Concerto No. 2 in B minor was written in 1826, a year after the birth of Paganini's only child, Achille Cirio Alessandro, known to his father as Achillino. In 1823 or 1824 Paganini had met the young singer Antonia Bianchi, who appeared with him in concerts in these years, but was later induced, for a consideration, to leave him. Her temper, jealousy and unpredictability caused her partner increasing difficulties. Both of them appeared, however, in Paganini's first concert in Vienna, given in the Redoutensaal on 29th March 1828. On this occasion he played his B minor Violin Concerto and his Napoleon Sonata, a work for the G string of the violin only, and a set of variations on a rondo from Rossini's opera La Cenerentola. He made an immediate impression on the Viennese, always eager for novelty, and a fashion began for anything à la Paganini, whether bread, hats, gloves or walking-sticks. Paganini stayed four months in Vienna, amazing the public by his virtuosity and by the price of admission to his concerts. His playing, however, was appreciated by a more discerning public, and Schubert, now in the last year of his life, attended three of the concerts, praising Paganini's Adagio, in which, as he said, he heard an angel sing. There is no doubt that Paganini's music, like his playing, could appeal at two levels, to the public at large for its miraculous elements of display, and to others for its clear musical qualities.

Ilya Kaler
The Russian violinist Ilya Kaler was born in 1963 in Moscow and studied there at the Conservatory under Leonid Kogan and Victor Tretyakov. In 1981 he won the Grand Prize at the Genoa Paganini Competition and in 1985 the Gold Medal at the Sibelius Competition in Helsinki, with a Special Prize for his performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. The following year he won the Gold Medal at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition. He has appeared as a soloist with the most distinguished Russian orchestras and abroad with orchestras of Eastern and Western Europe and in the United States, while as a recitalist he has performed in the major cities of Europe, in the Far East and throughout the former Soviet Union.

The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice (PNRSO)
The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Katowice (PNRSO) was founded in 1945, soon after the end of the second World War, by the eminent Polish conductor Witold Rowicki. The PNRSO replaced the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, which had existed from 1934 to 1939 in Warsaw, under the direction of another outstanding artist, Grzegorz Fitelberg. In 1947 Grzegorz Fitelberg returned to Poland and became artistic director of the PNRSO. He was followed by a series of distinguished Polish conductors - Jan Krenz, Bohdan Wodiezko, Kazimierz Kord, Tadeusz Strugala, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Stanislaw Wislocki and, since 1983, Antoni Wit. The orchestra has appeared with conductors and soloists of the greatest distinction and has recorded for Polskie Nagrania and many international record labels. For Naxos, the PNRSO will record the complete symphonies of Tchaikovsky and Mahler.

Stephen Gunzenhauser
Stephen Gunzenhauser, a graduate of Oberlin College and the New England Conservatory, served Igor Markevich and Leopold Stokowski as assistant conductor before becoming executive and artistic director of the Wilmington Music School in 1974. In 1979, he became conductor and music director of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. He records exclusively for Naxos and Marco Polo and his recordings include works of Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Vivaldi, Mozart, Gliere, and Liadov. In 1989/90 he recorded all nine Dvor√°k symphonies with the Slovak Philharmonic, as well as the three Borodin symphonies with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.

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