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Michael Jameson, January 2001

"Paganini's First and Second violin concertos were taped for Naxos several years ago by the Russian violin virtuoso Ilya Kaler. At the time these seemed ideal bargain recommendations, but they're vastly eclipsed in overall quality by these amazing performances of Concertos Nos. 3 and 4 by 30-year-old Romanian-born violinist Ernö Rózsa. Rózsa and the Slovak Radio Symphony are currently engaged in recording all of Paganini's works for violin and orchestra, and once completed their survey should become a first recommendation in this repertoire.

"Concertos Nos. 3 and 4 are not only formidably demanding from a technical standpoint, but also are extremely difficult to interpret musically. Rózsa has all the violinistic equipment necessary to tackle these fiendish scores, as he impressively shows in the first movement cadenza of the E minor work. For comparison, I turned to Salvatore Accardo's account on Deutsche Grammophon with Charles Dutoit and the London Philharmonic. Accardo is rightly regarded as a Paganini specialist, but he is neither as subtle in his phrasing and inflection nor so stylish and polished in bravura passages as Rózsa. Where Accardo is pleasingly warm-toned in the songful Adagio, Rózsa digs deeper and plays with greater imagination than we normally hear in this music. A constant feature of his musicianship is its wide- ranging coloration and nuance: you're never left with the impression that Paganini's slow movements are just entr'actes.

"In Concerto No. 4 Rózsa's interpretation has something palpably demonic about it, surely coming closer to the composer's own intentions than Accardo offers in his version. While the opening movement brings moments of mercurial brilliance and panache, the Adagio has a depth of sentiment rarely encountered outside a live performance. Packed with risk-taking solo playing and complemented by good, detailed sound, this release makes for an unmissable addition to anyone's basic violin library."

Michael Jameson

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group