PAGANINI: Sonata concertata in A Major; Cantabile in D Major; Sonata in A Minor; Sonata in D Major; Sonata in A Major; Sonata in E Minor; Tarantella in A Minor, Op. 33 – Pekka Kuusisto, violin/Ismo Eskelinen, guitar – Ondine

by | Dec 11, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

PAGANINI: Sonata concertata in A Major; Cantabile in D Major; Sonata in A Minor; Sonata in D Major; Sonata in A Major; Sonata in E Minor; Tarantella in A Minor, Op. 33 – Pekka Kuusisto, violin/Ismo Eskelinen, guitar – Ondine ODE 1142-2, 54:02 [Distr. by Universal] ****:

Performing on a Guadagnini violin (1752), Pekka Kuusisto offers a series of works composed by Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) for the salon, featuring the guitar as accompaniment in pieces reputed to have been composed for Paganini’s secret beloved, “Signora Dida.” Paganini conceived some 200 works for the instrument. The largest of these pieces is the 1804 Sonata concertata in A Major, Op. 61, a three-movement work that makes formidable demands on both parts. The more familiar Cantabile, Op. 17 casts a delicate patina over both instruments, the violinist’s right hand tested in its ability to sustain a long and flexible line that Paganini shades with soft glissandi.

Paganini created eighteen pieces entitled Centone di Sonate which sport aerial melodies and deft shifts of meter.  The atmosphere of each proceeds in a genial relaxed atmosphere, only occasionally breaking into the pyrotechnics that ordinarily define the Paganini style. The Sonata in A Minor, Op. 64, No. 1 opens dramatically; however, its bustling tremolos give way to a jaunty street tune, a Tempo di Marcia. The Rondoncino begins as a spirited Allegro that alternates strident chords and quick pizzicati while the guitar strums briskly.  With each repetition the tempo increases to intensify our delectation. The D Major Sonata, Op. 64, No. 2 begins Adagio cantabile, an unpretentious love song. Its Rondoncino crosses a gavotte with a frisky polonaise, Andantino, in plucked and wiry tones. The relatively large A Major Sonata, Op. 64, No. 4 basks in serenade sentiments, rather bemused in spirit. The Rondo enjoys an expansive development, exploiting the violin’s flute tone in jaunty figures. The contrasting section becomes quite hectic, in short rhythmic bursts a la tarantella, but always returning to the simple and endearing main motif, until the bravura finale.

The Sonata in E Minor, Op. 3, No. 6 derives from the two collections Paganini wrote in Lucca, dedicated alla ragazza Eleonora. The opening movement, Andante innocentemente, likely describes the lady’s character. A sweet trill capped by a slide moves the first movement to a polished finish. The Allegro vivo e spiritoso anticipates the kind of virtuosic writing Sarasate will exploit, here in the form of variations. Rapid bowed and pizzicati passages alternate in buzzing fury, quite breathtaking. Lastly, an A Minor Tarantella, Presto, originally conceived for violin and orchestra. The ferociously impish piece has both participants moving in Lombardic rhythms, glibly impressive, even as makes us wonder why previous virtuosi have too long ignored it.

–Gary Lemco

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