Who do you think is the best interpreter of Paganini music?

July 15, 2006 at 06:14 AM · Who do you think is the best interpreter of Paganini music? Not just one piece, but overall. People say Leonid Kogan played the best Concerto No. 1. But he didn't play too much other Paganini stuff.

I would say, that definitely, Salvatore Accardo is THE Paganini man. Everything I listen to by him is so perfect and clean. His Paganini Concertos No. 1, No. 2, No. 4, No. 5, and No. 6 (So pretty much everything except for No. 3, which Szeryng plays the best) is just amazing. His technique is amazing, and his staccato is so elegant and clean. I have never heard a more cleaner and faster flying, up-bow staccato from anyone else.

I have the whole 6-CD Box set of Salvatore Accardo's "Complete" Recording of Paganini. The box says that it's a complete recording of Paganini, but I have two more CDs that Accardo plays that's not included in the Box set. Some of them are The Carnival of Venice, Variations on Theme of "Mose", Moto Perpetuo, and more.

With those 8 CDs, Accardo recorded every single violin pieces by Paganini (excluding the violin and guitar sonatas and short pieces such as the Cantabile), and I have listened to all of them. There is no doubt that Salvatore Accardo was born to play Paganini. It's not just that his technique is amazing and his playing is clean, but also that his playing has the Paganini spirit, the style of Paganini. It has much character and liveliness. His playing has extreme risk and craziness. That, to me, is the way to play Paganini. Not too mellow or "romantic" like Perlman, Rabin, or Chang. Francescatti played Paganini well, but it was too much of Francescatti's style. Ashkenasi's sound feels too thin for me. To me, although Paganini lived and composed in the Romantic Period, his playing shouldn't be played like Tchaikovsky or Brahms. I'm not saying it should be played like Contemporary music or Baroque music. Paganini had its own period, its own genre. There was, in my opinion, Baroque, Classical, PAGANINI, and then Romantic period.

So that's my opinion. Do you guys agree with me about Salvatore Accardo? If not, who do you think is the best interpreter of Paganini? Not just one piece, but overall.


Replies (101)

July 15, 2006 at 06:27 AM · I'm not sure you can say anyone has the "spirit" or "style" of Paganini, since nobody alive has ever heard him.

I think Ricci is more daring in his approach than Accardo is. He played the first concerto differently in both recordings I've heard, which adds an little element of improvisation. He puts in a richochet scale where you don't expect to hear one or up and down bow staccato where ever he feels like it. I think he plays faster than Accardo too and doesn't slow down as much for harmonics.

In the recording I have of Accardo playing the first two concerti he kind of "crunches" his chords and the spiccato on his thirds scales.

Overall I don't have a favorite, maybe because I don't listen to Paganini very often. Leonidas Kavakos has my favorite 24 caprices. I like the first concerto recordings of Menhuin (from when he was young), Kreisler, Friedman, and Kaler just to name a few.

The two real specialists in this rep are Ricci and Accardo. I don't think either one of them plays everything the best. Also I don't think anybody can stand listening to this entire rep played by multiple artists, so you are unlikely to get many responses actually familiar with what you are asking.

July 15, 2006 at 06:57 AM · Greetings,

the problem with the question is that it implies only one possible interpretation. As that French dude said on the art violin, thta is an insult to the music.



July 15, 2006 at 08:16 AM · Ricci is big risk taker in this regard. His technique is unparalled in most areas, but he ends up sloppy at times because of his breakneck speed.

As for Accardo, I haven't listened to very many of his recordings, but I am quite impressed the things he places in his editions of Paganini sheet music.

July 15, 2006 at 02:26 PM · Overall, and for different reasons (and not in any particular order of importance or number of pieces recorded):

- Ricci (the ultimate "go-for-broke" virtuoso)

- Rabin (enthusiasm, articulation, and inner fire)

- Kogan (overwhelming intensity and mastery)

- Menuhin (heart, drama, and overcoming the odds)

- Heifetz (perfection, passion, and precision at an unbelievable level; nothing missing)

- Milstein (elegance personified, with an astonishingly clear, penetrating voice)

- Gitlis (excitement plus)

I like Accardo and others, but their Paganini never really did it for me like the above. Many play wonderfully, but IMO each of the above has something unique and special.

Do you think that if Paganini had been able to record his own music, he would have sounded any better than any of the above (or any of the wonderful players we have today)?


July 15, 2006 at 01:14 PM · Yeah, Paganini would kick their ass!


July 15, 2006 at 02:15 PM · Sandy, I had a teacher who in defense of contemporary playing of old music said that very few generations had actually passed between then and now, implying that it wouldn't have been that different. I think you see that argument is baseless if you examine the changes we know about during the time period - what happened to clothing fashions in those few generations for example. Or going from dodging horse poop on your big wheel bicycle on a dirt road urban main street to landing a man on the Moon (ostensibly some would say:))

Would he sound better? I'm a fan of recordings from the 20s and 30s partly because of a typical kind of quaintness and exhuberance I usually hear, which is independent of the genre of the music, but which co-exists with at least the same level of sophistication we hear today. If it's like what you sense from old photographs and paintings, it just increases in quantity as you go backward in time. I think if we could drop down into a recital by Paganini, we'd be as amazed as we'd be if we had little idea of clothing fashions of the time and that information was suddenly given to us sensorially. It would have to be captivating for a multitude of reasons, like some kind of quaint Jimi Hendrix at his finest. How's that?

July 15, 2006 at 02:20 PM · John: Your eloquence is convincing and compelling.

Jim: Your eloquence is convincing and compelling.

I like the older recordings, too. Judging from the old Ysaye recordings, I would guess that in spite of some historical or dated mannerisms, Paganini would have been fantastic. Say what you will about the level of accomplishment and musicianship of the modern generation - the older guys and gals were each one-of-a-kind.


July 15, 2006 at 02:33 PM · Jim: we share our mania for old violinists. Love

recordings of Seidel, Heifetz,young Menuhin, the

monster Hassid,Morini,Neveu,Benedetti,Rabinoff,

Nadien,Kubelik and so many others. They have after all PERSONALITY and style, that I don't find now except on very few. They SANG and FELT.

You can say that Kreisler is old fashioned and

that nobody plays his way, but to me, nobody

touches me so deeply like him and young Menuhin

July 15, 2006 at 02:50 PM · Carlos, I was thinking mainly of Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, and Charley Patton, but yes, the ones you mentioned too:) Edison-style recording is so simple it should have been invented 500 years earlier. Wouldn't that be wild.

July 15, 2006 at 02:44 PM · Haha cheers, I speak more eloquently on the violin. Although it does have tourettes though(out of tune occasionally).

I really want a flying delorean so that I can go to a Paganini concert. But heres one for ya... Would you go back in time to see him play if it meant you had to stay there??!

July 15, 2006 at 02:51 PM · Hell yeah! What an adventure.

July 15, 2006 at 03:27 PM · I like Ilya Kaler and Gitlis for Paganini.

July 15, 2006 at 05:21 PM · Eugene Fodor can play Paganini like a crazy man.

July 15, 2006 at 05:47 PM · Sam,

I haven't heard the complete Paginini by Accardo, but I do have his "24 Caprices" reconding. And, frankly, the reason I got it, was because I had a choice between two: Perlman's and Accardo's, and Perlman played so cleanly, beautifully, effortlessly, and in tune. Accardo's was more or less technically clean, but more labored, and consistently less than in tune. After debating for several minutes, I decided to go with the Accardo out of spite. I was tired of EVERYONE except me playing so perfectly, I felt I could relate more to Accardo.

I know, horrible logic, but at least it made me feel good. :-) If I were to make that choice again, I would make it differently.

July 15, 2006 at 05:51 PM · Alexander Markov has a good live recording of the 24 caprices. It's actually the most unique and musical I think.

I wouldn't say that Perlman's recording is always effortless or in tune. In fact I am not as impressed with Perlman as with the others. I also think it is rather insulting to Ricci and Accardo that it says right in the cd booklet (right after it mentions Ricci's recording) that Perlman's is the "definitive recording" and "remains the benchmark by which all others are measured". Some people like Ricci and Accardo play all 24 in one unedited take. And Ricci still goes for it and plays the most daring version.

Perlman's "definitive recording" took 3 days of recording and the recording is edited.

July 15, 2006 at 06:33 PM · I agree with Nicholas. I'm sure everyone is completely shocked. :)

BTW, Nicholas- thanks for the reply in the 'composer's intent' thread. You made excellent points.

July 15, 2006 at 10:37 PM · You can say ricci's recordings aren't edited, but you can't say accardo's recordings aren't HEAVILY edited

July 16, 2006 at 03:16 AM · I enjoy Tossy Spivakovsky's goofy recording on Vanguard of the Caprices with piano support. And Paul Zukovsky's thoroughly bizarre LP recording with exaggerated (both fast and slow) tempos. Ricci's Paganini #2 with Max Rudolf and the Cincinnati Symphony is the king of going for broke.

July 16, 2006 at 03:18 AM · too bad accardo, even with 8 discs to his name probably has not touched any of these paganini compositions


listen to the amazing audio recording while you're there


July 16, 2006 at 04:23 AM · You can hear the splicing in Perlman's caprices, particularly #1.


July 16, 2006 at 05:32 AM · Here's member Henry Z Liao's Pag. Not sure which this is. I like the one with the expletives especially:) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6M5t3PGRDc

July 16, 2006 at 08:44 AM · And here's Eugene Fodor from 1986:



edit: removed last statement.

July 16, 2006 at 07:53 AM · well, to say the best interpreter overall is difficult isn't it? specially when all the other violinists have not recorded a substanial amount of Paganini like Accardo..

Personally,I do like Accardo's clean playing..but Uto Ughi does play it better during a performance of #4.

My other favourite Paganini interpreters include Rabin,Gringolts,Kaler,Gitlis...they play with real passion..my humble opinion:)


July 16, 2006 at 08:47 AM · For me, Kogan was the outstanding interpreter of Paganini. However, I love Rabin's caprices, and the few caprices recorded by Heifetz are wonderful.

A real pity that we haven't the full set of Kogan's Paganini Caprices or the second concerto. And another pity that Heifetz didn't record more Paganini.

David Lillis

July 17, 2006 at 08:42 AM · http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ovnky2hwgWM&search=Kogan

That's Kogan playing Nel Cor Piu Non Mio Sento Variations.

July 17, 2006 at 10:55 AM · Just like my VHS, the pitch is completely off.

Still, great playing. Does anyone have a link to an audio of Kogan's Nel cor that is the correct pitch?

July 17, 2006 at 11:25 AM · I posted that Kogan Paganini Clip - glad people are enjoying it :)

July 17, 2006 at 12:13 PM · I don't enjoy it much. I don't like Kogan. He's too greasy slick or something. I'm not sure how much I like Paganini either. Kogan speaking sounds like a lecture at a prisoner of war camp in Siberia. The distorted video and messed up color makes me seasick. All together it gives me an acid flashback.

July 17, 2006 at 03:53 PM · William, I have an mp3 of the Kogan "Nel Cor". E-mail me and I will send it along to you.

July 17, 2006 at 04:37 PM · Sam said:There was, in my opinion, Baroque, Classical, PAGANINI, and then Romantic period.

In a sense Paganini is very close to the musical genre of Chopin and Bellini. It is certainlt romanric in terms of what that entire movement stood for including cult of the performer but it is indeed different from the later 19th century music which ought to alternately be referred to as Victorian or expressionist or even Jugendstil for later works.

July 17, 2006 at 05:52 PM · i don't think there will ever be a standard for paganini's music. the problem with paganini's music is it shows the whole world what you're NOT doing so there'll never be perfect paganini just like there'll never be a perfect violinist.

July 17, 2006 at 06:25 PM · I like Quarta's Paganini as well, especially the lesser played concerti.

July 18, 2006 at 12:39 AM · the clip of eugene fodor is pretty weak...ive heard students play that better honostly. was he better before? ive never heard him...

July 18, 2006 at 12:56 AM · WW III begins in 3...2...1...

July 18, 2006 at 02:32 AM · In a fit of passionate rage, I posted. Now I've decided, thanks to the wonderful 'edit' feature, to just sigh....

July 18, 2006 at 03:13 AM · And thus Franz Ferdinand miraculously came back to life the war of nations was averted...

July 18, 2006 at 04:02 PM · Actually when dealing with an animal like Nel cor piu non mi sento we're dealing with a level of pyrotechnics that is so extreme that the level of playing between different players is frequently a distinction without a difference. IMO

If Kogan seems too slick well he is doing a circus turn -- no one would ever confuse this set of variations with important musical thought--they are cult of the performer show pieces complete with fireworks by the Grucci family. So I find it difficult to get overly exercised by this one missed that hemisemidemiquaver. It's not about that it's about making the impossible sound easy and fun. They both do that the rest is taste and that's too personal to quantify.

July 18, 2006 at 05:35 PM · what the hell?? Jay you're speaking english but all I got was a family of hemophiliacs wearing Gucci and watching fireworks...

July 18, 2006 at 06:10 PM · haha..Pieter from where did you get that 'hemophiliacs'?;)


July 18, 2006 at 05:57 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

To: Messrs. Wolcott and Viljoen

Mr. Wolcott: The retraction of your post that apparently was written in "a rit of fealous jage" (to quote the late Inspector Clousseau) is truly the sign of a gentleman.

Mr. Viljoen: Thank you for your comment, which by the way, saved us from referring to our unabridged and much dog-eared 'Abbott and Costello American Thesaurus of Who's on First and What's on Second.'

Perhaps the heat has gotten to us all. Nevertheless, best regards to everyone in good humour!

Skowronski: Classical Recordings


July 18, 2006 at 06:34 PM · Maybe it's me, but I find Paganini's music just as difficult and interesting to musically interpret as Beethoven or Brahms or Bach.

If one strips away the violinistic (more like GUITARISTIC) embellishments that Paganini does, his melodies are simple and beautiful with interesting chord changes. That's why his music has persisted to the present day - it's harmonically graspable to audiences no matter how intricate the ornamentation is. That allows for tremendous range of interpretation from the performer.

I really like Kogan's Paganini (particularly his artifically sped-up "Nel Cor" on his video)because he brings out the dramatic side of Paganini. Too bad Kogan wasn't simply presented "as is". Even when that video is slowed down, Kogan's playing is still masterful and extremely musical.

Kogan is definitely a musician first, violinist second.

July 18, 2006 at 11:04 PM · Greetings,

I sort of agree with Kevin ;)

There is some absolutely gorgeous music by Paginin that cannott just be tossed aside by `seroius@ musicians. Otehrwise it would nto still be around while lesser but equally gymnastic composers music is relegated to the dustbib of time. Some of my favorite works can actually be played by an intermediate level violinist (about grade 7 by the British grading sytem).Those are the duets for violin and guitar. Just superb. Bet youve playe dboth parts f those , Kevin!



July 19, 2006 at 12:52 AM · Paganini was not just a technical genius; he was a musical and melodic genius. He wedded Italian opera, theater, and virtuoso violin music. His music, even in the most rapid passages, has a dominant vocal quality. His melodies are set just like arias for a kind of "super voice." They don't just "sing," they "speak." The accompaniments, often criticized as simplistic, are perfect settings for the vocal/violinistic "jewels."

That's why few of his violinist/composer/virtuoso followers are still as popular as Paganini continues to be in the repertoire. They may sing, but they're not "vocal."

Just listen to the overture-like opening of the 1st Violin Concerto, or the dramatic and theatrical opening of the 2nd Concerto (for which you can actually visualize a curtain opening).

I still believe that the numerous melodies he created in his most original works would be highly popular and on everyone's lips IF those melodies had been part of a grand opera, rather than melodies tucked away in a virtuoso violin concerto.


July 19, 2006 at 12:58 AM · "That's why few of his violinist/composer/virtuoso followers are still as popular as Paganini continues to be in the repertoire. They may sing, but they're not "vocal."

While somewhat true, my opinion is (and always has been)that there is a general laziness with both enthusiasts and violinist alike that is contributing to the death of the others.

And to express on the topic of the thread...I enjoy most the interpretations of Accardo.

July 19, 2006 at 01:04 AM · Jonathan: I don't necessarily disagree with you. I just think that Paganini cannot necessarily be lumped together (as he often is) with the violinist-composer followers usually considered his musical heirs. I think theirs is a different aesthetic - less vocal, more purely instrumental and technical. And I think that there is a unique thrill in that. It is probably under-appreciated. Just the thrill of hearing a technical tour-de-force played by an excellent virtuoso is a great musical experience, in and of itself. In that sense, we've probably let a lot of great music die of neglect.


July 19, 2006 at 01:28 AM · I can't get enough Paganini! Somebody drill a hole in me and pour it in with a funnel!

July 19, 2006 at 01:36 AM · Jim: Me, too. Overall, I keep coming back to it and it is just as fresh as ever. Especially when you hear different violinists with different qualities.


July 19, 2006 at 01:59 AM · Actually I don't like it all that much at the present time. But it's partly because I'm so into Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett these days. Which obviously translates to meaning everyone just like whatever you like. I doubt I could convince anyone the Skillet Lickers are great, not even their fans (if they have any).

July 19, 2006 at 02:07 AM · OK, I stand corrected (actually, I'm sitting down). Didn't realize you were being ironic. I'm really a classical music nerd (have been all my life). But when I get a little time I am going to scout out Gid Tanner, Riley Puckett, and (the?) Skillet Lickers. Anyone who can compete so effectively with Paganini must have something good about them.

Cordially, Sandy

July 19, 2006 at 02:45 AM · I'm sort of thinking about starting a thread on the general topic in a few days. Anyway, here are some pics to tantalize (or...?) you. I'm a classical nerd as well, but I appreciate some other kinds of music in the same ways as classical. With a classical background I'm a little bit stuck in that mode of appreciation I think. Not a bad thing. pics

July 20, 2006 at 07:10 AM · I have not played both the guitar and violin parts of the Paganini duos, buri, but I have no doubt that I can do either.

If anything, there's a good likelihood that I'd be more comfortable on the guitar part than the violin part.

July 23, 2006 at 12:30 PM · Could it be that the "best interpreter" of Paganini's music was Paganini himself?

July 23, 2006 at 04:20 PM · Nobody's made this point yet, so I will:

"Best" and "Favorite" are not necessarily the same.

July 23, 2006 at 05:06 PM · Depends on who it is who says it :-)

July 23, 2006 at 05:35 PM · Best might mean who ever determines the outcome has some discerning ability and has done his/her research...

Speaking of Paganini, I just got Ilya Kaler's Naxos CD of First and Second Concerti. He's great. I wonder which violin he played on for that recording.

Trying to find Viktoria Mullova's recording of Paganini, it looks like it maybe out of circulation.


July 23, 2006 at 08:10 PM · I've heard he used his Curtin for a few recordings... otherwise that Strad from the Russian collection.

July 24, 2006 at 12:19 PM · No doubt : Ivry Gitlis !

July 24, 2006 at 04:36 PM · Hey ive got the Mullova Pag...She plays the best sauret cadenza ive heard. Phenomenal!

July 24, 2006 at 04:44 PM · Actually Sander, when you talk about how operatic Paganini sounds it renminds of how I always thought he sounds like Rossini writing for the violin. Both have the same virtuosic bent as well.

July 24, 2006 at 07:28 PM · Jay: Yes, I believe that Paganini actually modeled his compositions on Rossini-style operatic music. And look at how many Rossini arias that Paganini arranged for violin.

It is an incredibly effective aesthetic that combines virtuosity, song, drama, theater, and a strong nationalistic (dare I say "folk"?) element. I can't think of another violinist-composer who actually used that aesthetic.

Actually, "used" is probably the wrong word - Paganini really loved this kind of music; it was part of his soul (before the Devil took his soul away*).

*That's a joke, friends. Don't go getting historical (or hysterical) on me about it.


July 24, 2006 at 09:38 PM · Greetings,

they were best of friends and used to go around the streets dresed as women for a joke (or not)



July 24, 2006 at 11:47 PM · What about the recording Gaccetta made in his teens? Don't miss it!

July 25, 2006 at 02:44 AM · Hey Sam, the reason why you like Accardo playing Paganini's music, is that like Paganini, Accardo is an Italian, could be in the blood line...lol.

October 8, 2008 at 08:25 PM · I'm surprised no one has mentioned the name Franco Gulli. His live recording of the Paganini concertos #1 & #6 are fantastic. His technique is phenomenal here with a touch of Italian!

October 8, 2008 at 08:50 PM · I'll take this thread as proof that everyone but me can play Paganini these days..

Two that weren't mentioned already: Viktor Tretyakov and Philipp Hirshhorn. They are, or were, both fabulous, each in his own way.

October 8, 2008 at 09:42 PM · I personally favour the interpretations of Paganini's music by Ruggiero Ricci. It can sometimes seem "nervous" and conveys an air of electricity to the music which, I believe, Paganini would have sounded like. This sound, we should keep in mind, was also due to the recording technology of Ricci's day. Contempories of Paganini either liked him or hated him. It is documented that his (Paganini's) playing was considered by some (usually violinists) to be revolutionary, and beyond anything the public had heard before. Other opinions state that he played out of tune and too "passionatly" to be considered good taste.

Giacomo Meyerbeer wrote, after hearing Paganini play in Berlin:

"Where our capacity to think ceases, is the starting point for Paganini."

This is a true statment when it comes to performing Paganini's works. It seems that if one forgets the complexity of the musical solo passages, it is easier to render them successfully.

Many years ago, I once studied a book of practice etudes and examples, who's author I have forgotten, and title I cannot recall (maybe someone can help me find this tome)that broke the most difficult runs down to small examples. Most of the runs are usually similar in nature, but are in different keys. Paganini was known to have always played his solos differently each time, which suggests that he was improvising the solo part most of the time. He only wrote the part out when he was ready to publish. I have demonstrated this many times: I can improvise a difficult passage, and it will "fool" one's ear. In all essence, it is no more than a scale played quickly, and those, in 3rd, 6ths, octaves,etc. My teachers used to call this "impressionism". To this day, I don't know if that was a good term or a bad one, but the technique helped me stay ahead of my game many times in my career. It impressed the idea to the audience that I was playing something great. All I really was doing was demonstrating my understanding of music theory and scales, and the many combinations that could be achieved. Maybe Paganini was doing the same thing??

October 8, 2008 at 11:52 PM · Jim,

just read over this thread. Please tell me about the Skillet Lickers.

When they're not making music, do they throw hot slag?

October 8, 2008 at 11:46 PM ·

October 9, 2008 at 12:17 AM · Is it strange that I don't like Paganini's compositions? Or most compositions which seem to exist only for the soloist to impress us with his technique? Without much expression, playing something really hard or really fast is a bit like those guys competitively stacking cups. Yeah, they're really good at what they do, but is what they're doing really that interesting?

October 9, 2008 at 01:30 AM · Greetings,

I don`t belive Paginins compositions belong in the group pf `pieces only to show off technique.` One can go through a lot of odd , dtaed q9th century repertoire designed to do just that on resources like IMSLP and the differnece is quite marked. Sander wrote a beautifu; description of the relationship between opera of the time and Paginins music a year or so ago. I can`t even attempt that but there is a lot more in Paginin than the fireworks and they serve to provide a contarst and framework of the highest calibre. Inded not all of Pagnins music has fireworks of any sort. I often perfrom the violin guitar duets and they are basically charming, well constructed and sincer piece sof musics with the most astonishing slow movements and charming outer ones. Very litlte in the way of double stopping or high positions unles sone chooses to interpet them that way with show of fingerings....

Paginin was a very thoughful musicina who played chamber music very seriously (especially fond of Beethoven and Schubert).

I also not in passin that the followin violnists have recorded Pagini:

Kogan, Grumiuax, Szeryng, Vengerov, Menuhin, Perlman,. Not one of these guys is muscially shallow so presumably they se esoemthing in themusic that makes it worth the effort they put in to pols9ih the works.

I wonder what that is?



October 9, 2008 at 03:15 AM · Accardo.

October 9, 2008 at 03:16 AM ·

October 9, 2008 at 07:47 AM · stephen, i see your point, but at the same time, it is widely recognized that he wrote his caprices and concertos to primarily showcase his fantastic technique. He was a showman, no doubt.

I would recommend Loenid Kogan, Ivry Gitlis, Viktor Tretyakov, Ilya Kaler. I actually was listening to Accardo among the bunch i mentioned, and his recordings seem very sloppy in comparison (i was listening to his caprices). I think he gets a lot of credit for being italian :)

October 9, 2008 at 02:34 PM · "Francescatti played Paganini well, but it was too much of Francescatti's style"

Actually Francescatti's father, who taught Zino, studied with Camillo Sivori, the only known famous student of Paganini...

October 9, 2008 at 07:13 PM · Leonidas Kavakos, Vassa Prihoda, Frank Peter Zimmerman, Leonid Kogan

October 10, 2008 at 01:19 PM · the very young Ossy Renardy at 17 recorded the complete Capricci with piano version...To me it sounds quite "italian" in style... David Garrett plays them very well to and he was still a teenager when he made the recording with piano. I like the original version played by Ehnes for solo violin ( Ehnes was 18 or 19 when the recording session took place)

October 11, 2008 at 05:02 AM · Three cheers for Tossy Spivakovsky's playing the 24 caprices (on Vanguard) w/piano accompaniament.

October 11, 2008 at 05:40 AM · Eugene Fodor!!!!!!!!! Just saw and met him UNREAL!!

October 11, 2008 at 05:43 PM · If anyone knows if the old Menuhin performance of the Paganini 2nd Violin Concerto (Fistoulari, Philharmonia Orchestra) has been put on CD, please let me know. It has always been one of my very, very favorite Paganini performances. There's a live Menuhin/Paganini 2nd from the 1940's, and I believe another later commercially available performance. But the Menuhin/Fistoulari is incredibly dramatic and thrilling. Menuhin is truly "operatic" in his interpretation, and his technical struggles add an element of thrilling excitement; it's the fallable, imperfect human being overcoming great obstacles. It's a great, great, transcendent performance, even if not as finely polished as the performances of many other great violinists.

October 11, 2008 at 06:17 PM · Alex Markov changed the way I looked/felt about Paganini...his live recordings are so captivating.

Did Heifetz record Paganini repertoire? I know that he did some caprices with violin&piano, but I've never heard/seen a recording/video of Heifetz performing any of the concertos...

October 11, 2008 at 08:33 PM · I note nobody's mentioned Schmuel Ashkenasi, but his Paganini concertos 1 and 2 knock spots off anybody elses I've heard for technical mastery (not heard Rabin's yet) - the guy is absolutely sh1t-hot; just found Kogan's Campanella the other day and the "sliding octaves" are nowhere near so good as Ashkenasis. And Buri tells us he never used to practise either!

October 11, 2008 at 08:35 PM · Patrick, I believe he is on record as performing the first concerto at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh, but no recordings unfortunately.

October 11, 2008 at 10:43 PM · Sander: I´ve YM recording on an old vinyl copied

to CD, and I agree with you. It's a marvelous

performance. In particular the slow second is one

of the most beautiful violin plays I ever heard.

October 13, 2008 at 11:11 PM · Greetings,

Jim, just read an interview with Ashkenaisd`s old teahcer. He apparently phoned her during the Tchaik comeption to explai he wa s`praciticng like a mule- two hours per day.`



October 14, 2008 at 11:47 PM · Alexandre Dubach's boxset of the Paganini concertos is my favorite complete set of all the concertos. For the caprices I really enjoy Shlomo Mintz and Frank-Peter Zimmerman (especially his No. 24, the last variation). Has anyone else heard these?

October 15, 2008 at 01:35 AM · Greetings,

I love Zimmermans recordings of the caprices. He treats them with great originality and charm. The only oe of the set I fifnd a bit odd is the ttremolo one. I can`t tell if its deliberate or not but some of the transitions betwene bars sound very jarring for some reason.

He is a great artist in anything. tremendous expressive vibrato.

Mintz is just off the planet. Unbelievable.



October 15, 2008 at 09:53 PM · As they say...

"Somewhere, Paganini and Kogan are playing duets,

and Paganini's playing second violin."

Leonid Kogan will always be the greatest interpretation in my book.

I think Shlomo Mintz's are quite nice though.

October 17, 2008 at 02:37 PM · Re-arrange the letters of Paganini's name and you have....(ready now?) IN P AGAIN.

:) Sandy

October 17, 2008 at 03:06 PM · Hi Sam,

Besides Salvatore Accardo, I don't know of other violinists that play most of the Paganini compositions. I believe that the 24 Caprices represent the best of Paganinis's talent as a composer (and as a virtuoso) and in this respect you might want to listen and see Alexander Markov's DVD playing all the caprices in one shot ! I have never seen anyone playing this work like him.

November 11, 2008 at 09:02 PM ·

    Hi Sam! Glad to see your passion for the old generation of violonists.  I do agree with you , when talking about Paganini's unique style - a style that made many say that "there was before Paganini and after Paganini" in music . I wouldn't go as far as saying that there was a Paganini era , just like a romantic era , but I do see your point and I like your view over things :) . I am a big Paganini fan myself .

      Now ... you asked .."Who was the greatest Paganini player ? " That's a tough question. There were so many great masters who played Paganini ( and did it extremely well) , not to mention the top violinists of today . If I would really want to pick someone , I would rather go to the last century, the so called "golden era " of violinists. You said that Leonid Kogan didn't record enough Paganini for us to be able to judge . I don't agree with you here. He nailed not only the Concerto in D . Did you listen to his Campanella? To his caprices? To the other Paganini works that he recorded ? I think Kogan enjoyed playing Paganini , and I think he left us an inspiring legacy. Yes , he is my favorite Paganini player. 

Of course , your opinion has a good point too .

Good luck ,


November 11, 2008 at 10:43 PM ·

Massimo Quarta is the best to me.... and he recorded these pieces with Paganini's beloved Del Gesù violin, "Il Cannone". You can listen to his recordings online here:





July 9, 2016 at 05:24 PM · The greatest interpretation of Paganini?

Well, it's hard because it really depends on what you're looking for in Paganini's compositions. If you're looking for someone who played it close to the original, I would recommend Alexander Markov.

Now, if you're wondering who is my favorite player of Paganini's Caprice, I would recommend listening to Maxim Vengerov's version. I will admit though the camera work is hideous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsJdLv38fy8 <- Maxim Vengerov playing Caprice 24 by Paganini. Yes, this is live too. Like I said, camera work is hideous, but his performance is truly splendid.

July 9, 2016 at 05:24 PM · The greatest interpretation of Paganini?

Well, it's hard because it really depends on what you're looking for in Paganini's compositions. If you're looking for someone who played it close to the original, I would recommend Alexander Markov.

Now, if you're wondering who is my favorite player of Paganini's Caprice, I would recommend listening to Maxim Vengerov's version. I will admit though the camera work is hideous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsJdLv38fy8 <- Maxim Vengerov playing Caprice 24 by Paganini. Yes, this is live too. Like I said, camera work is hideous, but his performance is truly splendid.

July 9, 2016 at 10:19 PM · Alexander Markov by a long shot. Roman Kim's interpretations are also fairly fantastic to listen to.

July 10, 2016 at 08:47 AM · What about Andrew Manze ...

July 10, 2016 at 03:19 PM · There is more to Paganini than the concertos and Caprices. I have in mind the large number of works for violin with guitar that should also be considered in an assessment of who is the "best" interpreter, if indeed any such person can ever be identified. There is, for example, a 9-CD set of Paganini's violin-guitar works performed by Luigi Bianchi amd Maurizio Preda. Other violinists have of course recorded many of these works.

July 10, 2016 at 10:53 PM · The Tarantella for Violin and Guitar is extremely beautiful and attractive.

That said, we need more players for this kind of Paganini complete/almost conplete projects. Most will rately touch the Second Cto., if they ever play the First, and not all of them record the Caprices (much less put any thought into all his other music, better known or not.) You'll always hear the same few names, which is a pity-it's not as if Paganini playing is something that will necessarily impair anyone's music career.

July 10, 2016 at 11:54 PM · I'd like to know how Paganini would sound on a Baroque violin and bow.

July 11, 2016 at 07:33 AM · Interesting point Paul.

But for me personally, I still think Ricci's caprices are the best.

July 11, 2016 at 03:02 PM · Ana Vidovic!

July 17, 2016 at 10:27 PM · Peter; I agree. Ricci's first 1947 version of the 24 is still my favorite. Besides, it was the very first recording of the complete 24 as written, that is for solo violin.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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