Niccolò Paganini is possibly the only figure in the field of classical music whose name has become a household word, equivalent with an almost supernatural excellence in any kind of human endeavour: from soccer to stock market analysis or haute cuisine. In a similar way, the last of his 24 Caprices has entered popular culture in a way that few other classical pieces have, its theme reused by musicians as diverse as Benny Goodman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Yngwie Malmsteen.
But there is more to Paganini and his set of Caprices than the one theme, however catchy it may be. Above all, there is of course the virtuosity: throughout the collection, Paganini employs the full palette of violin technique and whereas most volumes of violin studies focus on one aspect of technique at a time, he combines them in ingenious ways. Many of the techniques he uses were of unprecedented difficulty in his own time –ricochet bowing over four strings, octave trills, endless chains of double-stops, left-hand pizzicato and artificial harmonics. But the caprices also display an unusual musical imagination and sensibility –a combination of Rossinian lightness and the sudden mood swings of the early Romantics.
Born in 2000, the young Korean violinist Sueye Park has studied in Berlin since 2009. Her first encounter with Paganini was at the age of 11, when she performed the composer’s First Violin Concerto at the Komische Oper in Berlin, and she now makes her début on disc with this challenging programme.