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Nicolo PAGANINI (1782 - 1840)
Le Streghe (Witches’ Dance) M.S. 19 [8:41]
Suonata con Variazioni M.S. 47 [9:20]
Non pi¨ mesta M.S. 22 [10:22]
Palpiti M.S. 77 [10:11]
Religiosa introduzione al Rond˛ del Campanello M.S. 67/1 [12:46]
Mario Hossen (violin)
Vienna Classical Players/Martin Kerschbaum
rec. Casino Baumgarten, Vienna, 2017
DYNAMIC CDS7797 [51:23]

This is the world premiŔre recording of the original versions of three very famous works by Paganini - Le Streghe, Non pi¨ mesta and I Palpiti. It was Paganini’s intention for the soloist’s violin to be tuned a semitone higher. By doing this the solo violin parts, written in D major, sound as if they are in E flat major, the same key as the orchestral accompaniments. During the 19th century, the practice of tuning the instrument higher was abandoned. In the interpretations recorded here by Mario Hossen, based on his research into Paganini’s manuscripts, we can hear for the first time since Paganini’s era the music as it was originally written. The CD also includes another premiŔre recording, that of the Religiosa introduzione al rond˛ del campanello.

Le Streghe was first performed in Milan in 1813 and it consists of an Introduction, Cantabile and Theme & Variations on a theme by SŘssmayr. Il Palpiti first appeared on Paganini’s concert programmes in 1828 and it has a similar structure, this time using a theme from Rossini’s Tancredi. The music in both works is echt Paganini. The violin presents us with those ravishing, singing melodies so typical of the composer. These melodies then give way to passages that are embellished with fiendish harmonics, double stopping, left hand pizzicato effects and thrilling octaves. There are also some of those slightly painful passages in the very high register. The music is either exciting or grotesque depending on your point of view. The Suonata con Variazioni is based on a theme by Weigl and opens with a nervous sounding horn solo and a short orchestral tutti. The violin enters with a double stopping adagio and the main theme is followed by 5 variations and a final presto. The variations are full of the usual Paganini fireworks. Non pi¨ mesta from 1819 is based on a theme from La Cenerentola by Rossini and the final variation in this work is quite frankly staggering in its demands on the soloist. Religiosa introduzione al Rond˛ del Campanello was first performed in Paris in 1832. It is a rather unusual, hybrid piece with a choral first movement in which we hear the chanting of monks at the Saint Bernard Convent. After a lyrical Minuetto Paganini brings us into some well-known territory: the famous Rondo del Campanella from his second violin concerto.

The playing of Mario Hossen is fabulous. The orchestra sounds like a fairly small group but plays extremely well for the soloist. The recording is slightly boxy and lacks depth but it is well detailed. Mr Hossen is presented well forward but his magnificent playing can withstand being caught in such a spotlight. Only occasionally does the violin sound “scratchy” but that is an issue with Paganini’s outrageous pyrotechnics and no reflection on the soloist. This is a thoroughly enjoyable CD but probably only one for lovers of violin virtuosity and Paganini completists.

John Whitmore

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