Devilish virtuosity from across the ages
Steph Power is thrilled by Michael Barenboim’s CD of extraordinary works by Paganini and his successors
Berio: Sequenza VIII for violin; Paganini: Caprices for solo violin, Op. 1 – No. 1 in E; No. 6 in G minor; No. 9 in E; No. 16 in G minor; No. 17 in E flat; No. 24 in A minor;
Sciarrino: 6 Capricci;
Tartini: Violin Sonata in G minor (Devil’s Trill) Michael Barenboim (violin)
Accentus Music ACC 30431 73:19 mins
The mythical association of ultravirtuoso skill with supernatural – usually demonic – possession is nowhere so strong as in Italian violin traditions. In this ravishingly intense, second solo album, Michael Barenboim dares to face the abyss to explore not just technical but sonic and psychological extremes, linking repertoire from the 18th and
19th centuries with the recent avant-garde – which Tartini and Paganini all but become in his feverish re-envisioning alongside Berio and Sciarrino.
Sublimely controlled, Barenboim throws down the expressive gauntlet with playing as subtle as it is high-voltage and apparently – paradoxically – on the edge of reason. Underpinning the whole is an astonishing rendition of Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata No. 5 (1713) in which Barenboim eschews keyboard accompaniment, incorporating harmonic elements in a radical pushing of solo timbral possibilities which edge towards the composer’s modernist heirs.
With the Tartini Sonata performed immediately after Sciarrino’s 6 Capricci (1976) – a netherworld of trembling, whistling, skittering harmonics and layered melodic fragments – the aesthetic parallels are plainly audible; as they are between the Sciarrino and direct antecedents, Paganini’s 24 Capricci (1817). Barenboim presents six of the latter in white-hot mirror-image of the later work. Further dazzlement is provided in the form of Berio’s
Sequenza VIII (1977).
In short, this is visionary programming, breathtakingly realised.
PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine website at www.classical-music.com
Michael Barenboim’s playing is as subtle as it is high-voltage
Psychological extremes: Michael Barenboim offers dazzling virtuosity