Paganini Caprices

Generations of violinists have sweated and cursed their way through these demanding etudes, but more than perhaps any other violinist it was Ruggiero Ricci who, through his recording and public performances, established the validity of the entire set.

John Williams’ stunning recording of the 24th Capriccio opened the door for guitarists, and indeed his version of the 24th gave me the courage to attempt the remaining 23. Little by little over a period of several years time I discovered new techniques to overcome a series of technical hurdles that exceeded anything I had ever attempted. I decided early on to renounce the typically Paganinian effects such as scordatura or transposition. I wanted to try to play these pieces (at least the first time through!) without overly altering their character (although Schumann, Liszt and Rakhmaninov have certainly demonstrated that utterly enchanting results can be obtained by such re-composing!) Throughout the set of 24 I was continually reminded of effects Paganini must have borrowed from the guitar. For example, the Capricci Nos. 2 and 12 are considerably more idiomatic to the guitar than to the violin. Capriccio No. 9 calls for timbrel contrasts (“sulla tastiera imitando il Flauto” and “imitando il carno”) that are standard guitar techniques, and the frequent double, triple and quadruple stops that feature so prominently throughout the set lie much more naturally on the guitar’s 6 strings than on the violin’s 4. On the other hand, the huge expanses of arpeggios and scales that adorn so many of the Capricci are decidedly more idiomatic to the violin. Of course, I found that by challenging myself again and again to expand my concept of the possible I learned a great deal from Paganini! I hope that the result may be of interest not just to guitarists and violinists but to music lovers, amatrici and artisti of all ages who may thus experience one of the masterpieces of Western instrumental music in a new context.

Eliot Fisk

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"Astounding! Even Paganini wouldn’t have believed that it could be played on the guitar. An enormous accomplishment that will raise the level of guitar playing. Has to be heard to be believed."

Ruggiero Ricci

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