Heinrich Ernst Caprices vs. Paganini Caprices

March 16, 2007 at 06:40 PM · Why does Juilliard, Indiana, Curtis and all other major music schools ask for Paganini and not Heinrich Ernst caprices? I believe the Ernst caprices are more technical and they have the option of showing more musicality. Paganini caprices are flashy yes... but it's really hard to show musicality. Atleast for me...

Replies (20)

March 16, 2007 at 08:56 PM · Probably because Paganini's op.24 was more epochal than the Polyphonic Etudes.

When the 24 caprices were published they changed the entire paradigm of violin virtuosity, and Paganini's works are decidedly in the vein as those of a young Rossini, who added the new ideals of Romanticism to Italian opera. By comparison, Ernst's works simply carry on Paganini's innovations as if they were tradition, and Ernst applied Paganini's technical intelligence while ignoring his compositional radicalism. By the time Ernst came on the scene, that style was already old hat, and Ernst wasn't sophisticated enough to update his compositions to account for Schumann and Liszt's even more daring brand of Romanticism.

Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps, Bull, Sivori, Bazzini, and other post-Paganini violinists with solo works have also been largely ignored in favour of the Caprices for much the same reason.

March 18, 2007 at 12:10 AM · but still.... colleges should be looking for both styles of musicality and technicality...you did give me a good history lesson though

March 18, 2007 at 02:13 AM · The key to showing musicality in the Paganini Caprices is to have a flexibility in rhythm and incorporating rubato. I remember playing the 4th caprice many years ago for Sandor Vegh. He suggested that a better musical effect from my rattling through the hard passagework would be to add "technical rubatos" to suggest elegance in playing. I came to realize that when composers such as Bach and Paganini write difficult passagework this is a direction to the soloist to slow down, rather than speed up. One will find this especially in solo Bach. When there are more challenging notes, slow down to give the music time to speak.

Specifically to the Paganini caprices one should pay attention to tempo markings. For instance the 1st caprice is marked Andante and most play it prestissimo. It is a much more charming piece and in fact more difficult to play if you do it at a slower tempo with rubato to bring out the harmonic changes. I think Ossy Renardy did this in his recordings of that caprice.

March 18, 2007 at 03:09 AM · Paganini has been the king the origin to many modern romantic music making by many composers.

I highly prefer to Paganini over any other composers at least after he came along.

I have played the 24 caprices in public many times since 1980 in Aspen....and still learning from it everyday....a new thingy comes all the time when I play. That is the spirit of the Paganini.

March 18, 2007 at 04:14 PM · Hi Nigel-

To say that one is better than the other would be difficult and a little pretentious, but I definitely agree with you in that the Ernst etudes deserve more coverage. I think they end up on college aud. requirements because everybody can find a Paganini caprice to play (10,14, and 21 come to mind as relatively easy ones), whereas I can't imagine that you would fin too many high schoolers auditioning with Letze Rose or Erlkonig. I think that there are opportunities to play musically in either case, and it certainly depends on the individual etude/caprice. The trick is to find and make music in these sometimes monstrously difficult works. I think that it is a strong sign of accomplishment when a violinist can play these works and make them sound like music, not exercises.

March 18, 2007 at 06:21 PM · yeah... i think it's amazing to be able to show expression and musicality on something thats so hard to work with... thats why i really like the beethoven violin concerto, a lot of it seems really hard to make it special if you know what i mean...you can listen to 5 people play it and there aren't more than a handful of areas where the musicality can be heard. but when menuhin plays beethoven...that... is an accomplishment...

March 24, 2007 at 07:50 AM · Why don't music schools ask for one over the other? Probably because it doesn't really matter. If someone can play a Paganini Caprice well, what are you going to say? "Well, not bad, but you haven't proven yourself...let's hear Ernst!" Heck, why not make the Bartok solo sonata required? I'd bet you could judge someone's playing by the first three notes of Mozart A major Concerto, or 2 lines of a Bach fugue. I remember when the Oregon Symphony asked for the Romanza from Eine Kleine. What!? Why? Are they insane? No--that silly little tune can separate the best from the poseurs (like me, apparently...).

March 24, 2007 at 11:44 PM · Why are you even asking, Nigel? I thought you were going to med school? Is is possible you're giving that a second thought? Good. You should.

March 25, 2007 at 01:35 AM · because Paganini is Paganini

March 25, 2007 at 08:48 AM · well i'm double majoring... later if i decide to do it i can go to john hopkins and peabody not the best... but it's somewhere

March 25, 2007 at 09:17 AM · Peabody? Do you realize how many great violinists have come out of there?

JHU is one of the best med schools anywhere... I don't know how you'd manage both at the same time, to be totally honest.

March 25, 2007 at 02:43 PM · Regarding: "Ernst caprices are more technical and they have the option of showing more musicality. Paganini caprices are flashy yes... but it's really hard to show musicality."

Well, but if you can show musicality in something like Paganini, that's even more impressive than in a piece where the musicality is "built in", if you will.... :)

March 25, 2007 at 05:37 PM · I am sorry to be opposite, but I don't find the Ernst as an entire corpus harder then the Pag caprices nor more interesting musically.

I can stand only about 2-3 of the Ernst and to hear them played repetadly at auditions wold be terrible.

But hey, it is just my opinion.

May 6, 2012 at 09:41 AM · I think the Ernst pieces are more interesting as compositions. For instance, Etude #1 has more harmonic and rhythmic interest than most of Pag's Caprices. Also, I find more Germanic weight in Ernst. However, that does not mean that I dislike or discount Pag. But it is sort-of: Who would you rather listen to all day - Rossini or Beethoven?

[While B was 22 years older than R, R stopped composing 2 years after B died]

May 6, 2012 at 12:06 PM · Agree with Bruce. Almost everybody played Paganini's 24 without respect for the tempi marked by him. NÂș1 is the extreme example. How an Andante can became a Prestissimo is really a mistery. But Oskar Reiss (Ossy Renardy) wasn't the only one who played it as written; I know at least 3 more: Paul Zukovsky, Viktor Pikaizen and the forgotten czech Ivan Kawaciuk. And it is a very different piece.

May 6, 2012 at 05:42 PM · Without getting into which is "better", the reason schools ask for Paganini in auditions is because they're more commonly studied. Schools want a large pool of quality candidates to come and audition, and if they asked for Ernst many people would simply audition elsewhere. Or they would have to learn Ernst just for that audition. In general, schools like to hear people play things they're comfortable playing, although they have to be comfortable in many different styles!

I played the first Ernst etude on my graduation recital because I loved it so much!

May 6, 2012 at 10:47 PM · where can I download/buy Ernst caprices?

May 8, 2012 at 09:52 AM · Hal Leonard publishes them, if you want to purchase. You can also purchase them here.

The thing I've found with Ernst is that it's almost a piece, not an etude; in my opinion, etude generally focuses on ONE technique (IE: ricochet with Pag 1, 3rds with Pag 15 (I think)). Ernst's etudes, in that sense, aren't really excellent practice pieces, because they require more than one area of focus.

Another thing (that my teacher said): "we can't judge Ernst very well. With Paganini, there are dozens of students who play them. Smaller population plays Ernst, so it's a smaller pool to compare within".

"... but I've never heard anyone play here (I was at RAM)."

"Exactly my point."

May 8, 2012 at 07:00 PM · So far the only recording really worth buying is the Ingolf Turbna on Claves...out of print though. Soon we will release Josef Spacek though and he is QUITE a talent!

May 8, 2012 at 07:12 PM · The name is Turban, I've it. Excelent. There's other by Romanian Sherban Lupu on Continium label. He plays 4 Wieniawsky and 4 Ernst. Unconventional playing, much on Romanian style. But I'm afraid is also OOP.

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