Paganini Caprices

April 24, 2019, 8:22 AM · Which edition of the Paganini caprices do you think have the best editing--that is--good fingerings, clear markings, etc.?

Replies (21)

April 24, 2019, 8:38 AM · I like the Henle edition, which comes with both a pure urtext and an edited part. I own copies of both the Flesch and the Galamian (both International Editions) as well. The Flesch is probably most useful for fingerings.

Teachers that I've studied these with have generally had strong opinions about the right physical approach to each Caprice, including the selection of fingerings, and the pros/cons of different options. I've found the essentially blank slate of the Henle to be useful for this.

April 24, 2019, 9:04 AM · Thanks Lydia. Shar has a 20 percent off sheet music sale, so I am tempted to order.
April 24, 2019, 2:11 PM · I own about every edition and I always wind up going back to Galamian and Flesch, not that I can play them well.
April 24, 2019, 2:33 PM · Flesch's edition is quite good in opinion. I used a lot of his fingerings/bowings for #4 actually.
Then again there aren't that many ways to play Caprice #4. His fingerings for some of the scale passages especially in 17 & 21 are not great in my opinion, but I generally like his edition.
April 24, 2019, 2:45 PM · There is a new Heifetz edition otherwise based on urtext (which Mr H might not have seen). No special opinion— just throwing that out there.
April 24, 2019, 3:58 PM · Definitely the Henle Urtext one. While having the Urtext is useful, the edited version that also comes with it isn't bad either. I also have the Flesch one and there are quite a lot of interpretative changes made that in my opinion change the music a bit too much. My son's only done a handful of them so far, though, so it may just be those specific ones that the Flesch is weird on.
April 24, 2019, 6:20 PM · I've always thought of the process of making my own fingerings in music to be an enjoyable one, and adding significantly to the creative process of initially learning a piece. So I'm usually confused about all the fuss over editions, especially when considering that what worked for the editor might be totally wrong for your hand shape/size.

I understand urtext though, because we still need to know the composer's intentions.

April 24, 2019, 6:22 PM · I have the Heifetz edition. I love Heifetz, but this edition is nothing special.
April 25, 2019, 8:36 AM · Barenreiter Paganini Caprices. The International edition has wrong notes left and right (2nd caprice, 3rd caprice, 15th caprice), and Barenreiter seems to have it sorted out.
April 25, 2019, 8:52 AM · Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Seems that an Urtext and perhaps Flesch for fingerings would be the best choice. My teacher tends to give me enough rope to hang myself (so to speak) with choosing my own fingerings. Paganini's not on the agenda now, but I still have in my sights to do the 3 hour challenge at some point, and would probably consult her as part of those three hours.
Edited: April 25, 2019, 9:32 AM · My issue with the Flesch edition is that there are egregious errors with wrong notes, and this edition (a high-selling one) has propagated these errors/misprints. When I listen to a conservatory kid play these wrong notes with confidence, there's usually an International Edition copy in their case!

For example:

2nd caprice - Flesch & Galamian editions: measure 9, 10th note of bar is an E, not C#
3rd caprice - Flesch & Galamian editions: measure 14, third note of bar is F natural, not F#
15th caprice - Flesch & Galamian editions: measure 24, last double stop of bar is EG, not EA

Hope this helps!

Edited: April 27, 2019, 11:28 PM · The manuscript is in the public domain and can be downloaded here at:,_Op.1_%28Paganini,_Niccol%C3%B2%29
April 25, 2019, 5:32 PM · @Marty Dalton: It IS special!

It is the only one that is actually an accurate urtext! :)

Caprice 4-the slurred 16th 3's played holding a chord are always incorrect (manuscript has the chord held starting on the 2nd 16th NOT the first). :O

As seen in the article here under the magnifying glass:

April 25, 2019, 8:55 PM · ao, have you looked at some of the fingerings?
Edited: April 26, 2019, 12:42 AM · I think it's important to note these new 'Heifetz editions' weren't actually edited by Heifetz himself. Even the bowings and fingerings he put into pieces he edited during his lifetime were quite different from what he did.

As far as the caprices go, there's no question that you have to learn the right notes. As Andrew pointed out there are some typos in the Flesch part. Thankfully we have the manuscript (kindly posted by Gene) and nice urtext editions available.

At the same time, I do think we are getting overly obsessed with urtext editions today. Personally, I'd rather hear Michael Rabin, or Nathan Milstein play the Caprice No. 5 to perfection with spiccato rather than hearing a famous live recording of a rather well-known modern day violinist (who performed the entire set of 24) fumble for notes using the original ricochet bowing. I like hearing David Oistrakh and Michael Rabin in Caprice 17 with their added scale passages, and 8vas (even though it deviates slightly from the manuscript). I think the urtext should just be the starting point for any piece when you learn it, but without the performers, the music is just ink. There's room for interpretation. Many famous works by well-known composers have multiple versions. If you listen to recordings of Sarasate perform his own music, there are some slight discrepancies from the printed score.

April 26, 2019, 12:33 AM · @Marty: I meant the actual music. :)

The fingerings are of no consequence-the ones in the urtext are proven to not be Paganini's!

If they are Heifetz' (yes) they didn't do urtext Pag back then, so the fingerings will for sure be idiosyncratic to the 20th cen. ??

When asked why he did not include fingerings, he stated "do you not see who I have dedicated them to (the artists)?

Heck, given his improvisation skills I see no issue with using any fingering-even on the spot.

PS: Weird how you can tell hand frame from the compositions... maybe that is why I find Wieniawski tricky---

He had big hands and thick fingers-you can see it in the very "block pattern" style and lush phrases that suggest a Perlmanesque approach that minimizes inaccuracies of intonation usually caused by smaller hands shifting in quick succession during the very quick leaps around the fingerboard with no easy safety route down (or up).

April 26, 2019, 9:33 PM · @Nate Robinson

For sure it's fine to improvise Paganini-he wrote his virtuoso works for skilled musicians.

But, a complete urtext lets you at least experience exactly what he implied-then you can tweak it later. :D

PS: A lot of the awkward bowings like the #5 ricochet are the fault of the (modern) bow, not the player-it bounces back too quickly for the springy strokes to work clearly or effectively (Paganini used a classical/swan-head bow-they naturally fall slower and bounce semi-naturally). :)

Edited: April 27, 2019, 12:11 AM · A.O. : Absolutely agree. Also I’ll add Paganini used a flatter bridge, so the execution of various techniques with the right hand was very different. I played on a swan head bow modeled after one of the early Tourtes. Very different than the more conventional stick you’ll find by the Peccattes or Sartory, with some of the qualities you describe. However I don’t think the violinist I referenced earlier was limited by his equipment - his performance was flat out sloppy and would be with any instrument or bow. Let’s not forget, Paganini also played with no shoulder rest, or chinrest and used pure gut E, A, D strings, and a silver wound gut G. Not an easy feat in these works!
April 27, 2019, 12:10 AM · I use Abram Yampolsky edition, the best, I don't know if there's one in US.
Edited: April 27, 2019, 9:04 PM · @Nate Robinson:

For sure, many modern players are sloppy at Paganini-I blame mindset.

They are played like circus acts-each caprice (except maybe a few such as 12 or 8) is full of gorgeous Italian melodies if only people would use more rubato and tonal shades (and slow down too-very important!)

That, and I actually find Pag easier on guts-the voice of each string directs you on where to play a certain phrase (especially since I used to play an accurate copy of Il Cannone-it has very marked zones of sound type and quality).

Using his natural pose and bowhold also simplifies everything immensely-all his works become intuitive, if thin tone (the bow us held by finger ends and played from above-no weight can be applied to it).

April 28, 2019, 12:24 AM · If you're a good enough violinist to approach these pieces on your own it hardly matters. The fingerings that suite your technique will become apparent soon enough.

Remember - the one thing that matters, above all else, is that they sound clean and resonate purely.

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