The 24 Caprices for violin by Niccolò Paganini are among the most spectacular solo works for the instrument and the artists who have successfully balanced their ferocious technical demands with true musicality are rare. Through his 2009 release for Onyx Classics, James Ehnes demonstrates that he belongs in that august company of violinists who have fully mastered the caprices' bag of tricks -- including passages in octaves; rapid multi-stopping; spiccato, martellato, and arpeggio bowing; left-hand pizzicati; and more -- and given them a genuine feeling of emotion usually absent in other showpieces and found more often in the elevated violin works of J.S. Bach. Ehnes first recorded the caprices in 1995 for Telarc at the start of his career, so the return to these virtuoso pieces appears to signify a rethinking or reassessment of their potential; indeed, the earlier recording was a dazzling display of bravura playing, while the second one is more reflective and penetrating in its expression. Onyx's sound is transparent and crisply detailed, but the warmth of Ehnes' playing and his presence are readily apparent.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|24 Caprices, Op. 1|