This may be the closest thing to a live performance I have ever heard on a studio recording. The sound on my studio monitor-style speakers is uncannily like having Julia Fischer play her violin just three or four feet away from you. It’s not so much that her instrument has been miked very closely – more, the illusion is total that she is there, standing close and playing her instrument at her so-intimate audience.

The Paganini Caprices are amongst the most famous of the solo violin repertoire, and many of the items are a recitalist’s dream for an audience-shattering finale. Most famous of course is the final Caprice, which is the wellspring for innumerable themes and variations, including the Brahms piano variations and, my own favourite, Rachmaninov’s sublime Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Fischer wants us to consider these Caprices as more than standout individual bravura pieces. She wants us to listen to them as a unified whole. I’m sure Paganini relished the flamboyant aspect
of these works, but Julia’s performance is not only technically accomplished, it is artistically persuasive as well. The bravura is still there, but she does draw out intrinsic beauty, and thoughtfulness as well. This is Paganini as the great musician, not circus-style performer, and Fischer does him proud.

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