Printer-friendly version weekend vote: Have you studied the Paganini Caprices? How many have you studied?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: April 18, 2014 at 5:54 PM [UTC]

After posting the interview with Ilya Gringolts about the Paganini Caprices this week, I received an e-mail from a longtime V.commie:

I had a typo. Plus some personal advice, "Start practicing the caprices. Just do it."

PaganiniSounds like a Nike commercial, sheesh! And anyway, I thought Ilya was letting me off the hook with the whole idea that I probably won't get anywhere anyway with these Caprices anyway. When I had resolved to learn them some years back, I was advised to start with a challenging one, how about No. 4? I worked and worked, but man that was a tall mountain. Are they all like this? My struggle with No. 4 might have reinforced my feeling that the caprices were simply insurmountable and just not worth, well, the heartbreak.

My friend assured me they are not all quite as bad as No. 4, and working on them is indeed worth it. "Since working through these monsters, my chops feel so great. Everything feels easier. Everything," she said. "It is steamed broccoli for your chops."

Hmmm. Streamed broccoli? My chops probably could use some roughage.

So which one should I start (over) with? And also, have you studied the Caprices? And how many of them have you studied? (The numbers in the poll refer to how many caprices you've studied, not to the number of the actual caprice).

From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 18, 2014 at 6:04 PM
I need someone to make me a T shirt with a big image of Paganini that says, "Just DO it!"
From Kevin Keating
Posted on April 18, 2014 at 6:47 PM
So far it seems that the vast majority has studied less than half a dozen of them, and almost half haven't studied any of them at all. Does that mean that it's not a necessary part of the repertoire? Something only required (it seems) if you're a world class globe-trotting virtuoso? Nothing against Paganini's technical virtuosity, but some will argue the lyrical musicality of his music. If being a pyro-technical virtuoso is what you want then I guess there's no better way to learn than from Paganini. But if emotional connection to the audience is what's important then I think time could be better spent. My opinion, just saying.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 18, 2014 at 8:58 PM
Hi Laurie,
I did get the impression your bad experience caused you to be too wary of at least some of the caprices. The ones st the easy end of the spectrum are actually quite straightforward technially. Artistry is always a more complex issue.
Actually Paginini did write a study book . it's called the Barucaba variations. some of those mini etudes are more difficult than many of the caprices. Szigeti recommended this work and I have often used it with advanced students.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on April 18, 2014 at 9:36 PM
I'm currently suffering through #11, first time through. Paganini is up in heaven, looking down, and shaking his head sadly. #12 is next, the last of the 24 I haven't tackled yet.

And, thanks to Buri's non-stop waving of the Barucaba Variations Flag, I picked up a copy of those and started plowing through. They are tricky! At least they are mercifully short.

Please let us all know if broccoli will replace prunes...

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on April 18, 2014 at 11:19 PM
Perhaps one day, hopefully in the not too distant future, I'll be ready to work seriously on one or more of the Caprices, but for the time being I'll stick with his violin and guitar duos which, while having their occasional technical "moments", are predominantly lyrical and evidently composed with several levels of ability in mind (some of the dedicatees appear to have been Ladies of the Court at Lucca - ahem!).
From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 18, 2014 at 11:41 PM
Because of my new orders, I've been looking through No. 13 this afternoon. It's totally doable! I'm completely shocked!
From Mark Roberts
Posted on April 18, 2014 at 11:59 PM
I had lessons on about ten of them on the viola along time ago, I have since worked my way through the rest and sometime later done them on the violin. Number 5 is a good place to start, it is not the easiest but if you can do that one you are ready for them, if you try it despite what Ilya says don't do the 3+1 bowing just do it as it comes and don't play harmonics near the end, those things can come later. Surprised by what Trevor says about the violin and guitar duos (opus 2 &3 if I remember), there is a lot of technically difficult things there, I have tried playing the best known one, the last, with guitarists it did not work....Remember that opus one is called caprices not etudes, perhaps this is because Paganini wanted them to sound capricious not studious, so I think that a cavalier approach to what is actually printed is ok, there is a recording that Menuhin playing the 24th which is very free.
From John Rokos
Posted on April 19, 2014 at 12:42 AM
If you steam broccoli, Biochemist Prof Elizabeth Jeffrey's advice is steam for between 3 and 4 minutes. Google her to find out more. Anyway, that's what I do with my broccoli.
And I'm sorry Laurie, but I must point out that your T-shirt could be misinterpreted - You know Paganini's activities weren't restricted to practising the violin.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 19, 2014 at 4:25 AM
Please don`t bring up the cross-dressing.
Broccoli dressing is ok though.....
Looking forward to reading about laurie`s Paginini epiphany. I usually start newbies with no16.
From Suresh Brady
Posted on April 19, 2014 at 9:29 AM
I studied #14 years ago. One of the more doable ones I think and highly recommended.
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on April 19, 2014 at 3:52 PM
Mark, I was thinking in particular of Paganini's 36 "Lucca" Sonatas for violin and guitar, catalog nos MS 9-13. Most of these are within the capabilities of most violinists, and many are clearly based on folk tunes of the time. There are also the "Centone" Sonatas Op 64 MS112, some of which aren't too demanding, and others which are.

The Op 2 and 3 Sonatas you mentioned are cataloged MS26 and MS27 respectively, and I agree, they are generally not for the faint-hearted. There is another set of "Lucca" sonatas, confusingly also referenced as Op 3, but their catalog number is MS133. Yet another set of "Lucca" sonatas is Op 8, MS134.

The scores of some of the above are available on IMSLP/Petrucci. Others are not so easily obtainable, and for those it may be necessary to search in national library archives, such as the British Library, Library of Congress, or Bibliotheque Nationale, and try to get a loan or photocopy.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on April 19, 2014 at 8:57 PM
if you check out Turban violin you can find an interview on YouTube wither great German violinist playing and dicussing the caprices, no 1 mostly.
very germane (if you'll forgive the pun) to this discussion.
Turban is a wonderful player and musician but unfortunately after hearing ilyas version I am having trouble with it being played any other way:(
From Paul Deck
Posted on April 19, 2014 at 11:26 PM
I appreciate Buri's suggestion to start with No. 16, and perhaps I will look at it. But since I can only play six or seven of the Kreutzer etudes to my own satisfaction, I don't have high hopes.

I'm with Kevin Keating. If the purpose of learning left hand pizzicato is so that you can play Paganini Caprices, y'all can have it.

Posted on April 20, 2014 at 4:36 AM
I agree with the "just do it" comment! I absolutely love Gringolts and was in awe when I heard him play in Taipei recently. Had to pick up the shattered pieces of my jawbone from the floor after the concert. But don't let anyone who plays perfectly tell you that you shouldn't try. You only live once. For me, I still have dreams!

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