Sei Capricci per violino,

Composer: Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947)
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Composer: Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947)

Performance date: 01/07/2017

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1976

Duration: 00:25:36

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:Solo

Artists: Viviane Hagner - [violin]
Huw Watkins - [piano]
Dana Zemtsov - [viola]
Pacifica Quartet (Simin Ganatra, Sibbi Bernhardsson [violins], Masumi Per Rostad [viola], Brandon Vamos [cello]) - [quartet]

are naturally reminiscent of those of Paganini, yet in these pieces
the myths of bravura and virtuosity so epitomised by those archetypal
works are deconstructed, revealing a tender tentativeness beneath the
surface of technical display. There is a constant feeling that the
mighty edifice of performance might crumble, delicately constructed
as it is from wood and air and the movement of hairs. Sometimes it is
as if Paganini were being played underwater, virtuosities distorted
by shifting tides, bent from crystalline perfection by the movements
of time, or played high on a mountain peak, the hard edges of the
notes blown away in a wind that echoes through the violin, whistling
through the instrument, making its deep spaces resonant with
unforeseen harmonics, starkly elemental in their beauty.

I am harmonics,
Sciarrino’s reply when asked by violinist Carolin Widmann w
do you only do harmonics?
are pieces wrought from a shifting world of overtone and harmonic
allusion, where notes are composed of multiple valencies, spectral
insinuations of corporeality. In the score Sciarrino’s directions
are written like footnotes, asterisks indicating descriptions as
detailed as stage directions for the sought harmonic effect. There
do not actually exist on the parts of the string where they are
indicated; by playing as if they were possible new sounds emerge.
There are
two notes are indicated and the oscillation between them, bowed close
to the bridge, produces a world of overlapping overtones. There is
the use of s
or brushing with the bow, where the stroking of the strings along
their length creates ghostly sounds from this unfamiliar form of
contact. There is a sense in which the technique of the violin is
being reinvented in ways as radical and challenging to players as
those of the Paganini Caprices to which they allude.

first Caprice is the most reminiscent of Paganini, an alchemic
transmutation of those ricocheting arpeggiated cascades that threaten
to dazzle and alienate the listener with their laser-like precision,
into a airier more human domain. The second is a shimmering world, a
meditative and serene polyphony of breezes. The third is softly
agitated, the fourth is marked
skittish exploration of sudden contrasts, infinitesimal tremulations,
and declamatory glissandi. The fifth
is to be played sometimes like a sigh and sometimes like a whisper.
The sixth plays with the sound of unbowed fingers touching the
strings, the wood of the bow, and a dazzling array of harmonic
effects, ending with a restatement of the superimposed image of
Sciarrino’s and Pagannini’s first Caprice.