PAGANINI 24 Caprices (Lisa Jacobs)
It was surely only a matter of time before the Dutch violinist Lisa Jacobs recorded Paganini, after the assured, personality-rich account she gave in 2016 of the concertos of Paganini’s Baroque violin virtuoso forebear, Pietro Locatelli. What she’s come up with here is a strong offering, too: distinctiveness again, within an overall approach that sits mostly on the gentler, beautiful-toned end of the scale, as her bouncing, mellow-toned No 1 sets up. Although not entirely, as you’ll hear through the peasanty fire she brings to No 5. Also worth highlighting is the thought-through clarity of her part-voicing: returning to No 1, listen to the extent to which its lower-note melody feels like a sustained musical line, then compare that to Roman Simovic’s recent reading, which rather hides this melody in places, exciting and fast-feeling though his short, sharp ricocheting is.
Tempo-wise, Jacobs occupies roughly the same comfortable, instinctive-feeling ball park as other recent recordings have done, achieving the desired impressions of speed and space without plunging into extremes. Indeed, measure and subtlety are among these readings’ chief overall qualities. Take the sombre No 4 in C minor: opening pure-toned, vibrato present but by no means throbbing heavily, where she trusts the forte marking of those low-register octave interjections to emerge naturally without too much additional pressure from herself. Other pleasures are the whisperiest pianissimo she brings to the start of ‘The Trill’, No 6, and the sophisticated mini-swells she brings in No 24 to the second variation’s acciaccatura’d semiquaver groupings, making them sound like little flicks of an impish devil’s tail.
I suspect that if it’s beauty I’m after then Ehnes will still come out on top for me; the cleanly ringing purity of his sound and the sheer finesse of his technique are just too good, and are also the perfect contrast to the Perlman sitting in my back pocket for when I fancy a bit of living life dangerously. That said, I also suspect I will yet be revisiting Jacobs when I fancy beauty of a slightly softer hue.