This is an extremely exciting album of virtuoso violin music, centered on the most famous violinist of them all, Niccolò Paganini. Paganini's own music makes a bow only at the end, with an unfamiliar paraphrase of a tune from a Rossini opera. The rest of the program is devoted to the shadow Paganini cast. For a while the album seems to be devoted more to Fritz Kreisler than to Paganini, but the highlight comes from a different virtuoso, violinist Laurent Korcia's countryman Eugène Ysaÿe. It's a bit difficult to understand why Ysaÿe's Paganini Variations have never before been recorded. They take off from Paganini's already difficult 24th Caprice and built into an absolute tour de force of upper-register acrobatics. True to the French school, beauty of tone here is as important as sheer speed and power, and here Korcia excels in a riveting performance that's worth the price of admission by itself. Korcia also does a plausible version of Kreisler's rounder tone and more sentimental mood, and about the only qualms concerns the fact that the album opens with violin-and-orchestra music and then switches to violin and piano for the rest of the evening. But accompanist Haruko Ueda, too, is unusually effective, remaining in the background while entering into the spirit. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim