Of all the virtuoso composers to emerge from the 19th century, the devilish image of Niccolò Paganini may be the most enduring. Not only did he single-handedly change audience perceptions as to the appeal of virtuosity for the sake of virtuosity, but inspired a generation of subsequent composer-performers and pushed forward technical demands of the violin. Of all his compositions, the 24 Caprices, Op. 1, remain as some of the most difficult works in the literature and test the mettle of violinists to this day. Despite their difficulty, there is no shortage of recordings available ranging in quality from the sublime to the completely abysmal. The challenge is not only to produce a technically brilliant performance (which is a must), but to also make real music out of what could be seen as little more than technical exercises. Violinist Mayuko Kamio, with her second album on the RCA/Sony label, seeks to do just that. Her performance of the caprices has all the technical superiority as Midori's youthful attempt. Though not quite as startlingly fast as Midori, Kamio adds something that some violinists fall short on when recording the Caprices: right arm control that matches the left hand. Kamio rarely crunches chords, buzzes strings, or pushes her violin (a Stradivarius once owned by Joseph Joachim) past its limits. This, coupled with her warm, focused sound even in the stratospheric ranges of her instrument, makes this recording one worthy of most any collection. RCA's liner notes are brief but informative, yet curiously lack a biography of their gifted artist.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|24 Caprices, Op. 1|