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Reflections:

  Only Paganini ? Intonation? Rare recordings: Beyond the limits??

Only Paganini?

Among all violinists of the 20th century, Ricci is considered the Paganini specialist of our time. He himself explained: Thw reason that I became a Paganini specialist was almost completely by chance. When I got out of the army, Menuhin had just recorded the soundtrack for a Paganini biopic called "The magic bow", and inspired by this I made my first recording of caprices for Vox on 78s. This really put the virtuoso stamp on me"

The affinity of Ricci to Paganini is documented by the fact that Riccis tecnique is much based on the foundation of the 24 Caprices. He recorded them several times: 1947 on 78s, 1956 and 1978 on LP and on Video.

Only stamping Ricci as the Paganini specialist Paganini means to overlook many other aspects of the whole musician Ruggiero Ricci.
He played and recorded the most important works of the classical and romantic repertory and considered the Beethoven Concerto for Violin the most important work. Played with beautiful and rich tone, delicate vibrato and feeling for the style, his recordings have a fixed place among many other soloists.
What Ricci unlike many other Violinists did on top of that, is his interest and devotion to modern compositions.
He played and recorded works by many composers of the 20th century, among them the Hindemith Sonatas op. 31 (who else has played them many times as part of a recital?) or the Solo-sonata by Bartok, written 1945.

Intonation

During his long career as a teacher and performer, Ricci has given much attention to intonation. Scales are considered the fundament of good intonation, besides, Ricci puts importance on triplets and scales in thirds, where the secret is in cultivating the abilitx to listen to the overtones, that the various double-stops produce. It is the actual overtone that determines whether the double-stop is in tune. Furthermore he puts importance on practising unusual fingerings for scales in thirds.

One remark has to be made at this point, because on several recordings of works by Wieniawsky or Paganini Ricci's intonation on high notes or chords is less than perfect. While some critical listeners made a remark on lack in intonation already in his first 78 recordings from 1934, it is evident to everyone in later, especially live recordings and late recordings of Wieniawsky or Paganini. One could suggest, that "at these most difficult passages or chords one should make concessions..." but as Heifetz or other great Violinists said, a Violinist should never display the limits if his technical skills.
Most of Riccis recordings of the whole classical, romantic or modern repertoire display an impeccable pure intonation.
His last recordings of the Schubert Sonatas, Chopin preludes or Tchaikovsky pieces give evidence of the purest intonation in addition to inspiration and delicate playing.

Rare recordings:

Starting from new ideas for recording, Ricci was the first to go along new and interesting ways.
Let us start with:
"The Glory of Cremona"
This is a recording from the 1950s, on which Ricci plays 15 of the most precious and best sounding violins from Cremona. He plays short and typical pieces mostly from the Baroque, each on another violin built by Amati, Guarneri or Stradivary.
J. Hartnack noted this to recording in his book "Great Violinists of our time" (published by Atlantis) that only the rich and beautiful tone of Ricci is dominating over all differebnces of the various instruments, neverthe less the record is an excellent document for the Violins of the great Masters from Cremona.

Riccis latest recording on DVD (Label: Dynamic, Genua), features the art of violin making by todays makers of violins of Cremona. On this record Ricci plays always the same piece on different modern violins.

Violin Concerts by Beethoven and Brahms:
Ricci gave us recordings of these concerts on CD, on which he adds various cadenzas to the first movement to the whole concert. Thus one can select one out of 15 cadenzas for the concert from the CD.

Sibelius: Works for Violin:
Discopaedia Studio series MBS 2009/10

A complete recordind of all works for violin and piano, comprising op. 2; op. 78; op. 79; op. 80; op. 81; op. 102; op. 106; op. 115 und op. 116.

Paganini: Caprices:

Probably the only recording in the world using the direct-to-disc process of all Paganini caprices was made by Ricci. This process records the original sound direct to master discs without using a magnetic tape. Thus the full dynamic range and the original sound are fully preserved. Label: Umbrella
Ricci took the challenge of recording live like in the old days of the 78s.
Listening to the result displayd the most direct sound of the soloist but leaves some doubts on intonation.

Most beautiful recordings at the age of almost 80 years:
For the Label "One-Eleven" Ricci recorded die Sonatas by Schubert in the Year 1997
On this CD Ricci displays the whole wisdom of his long career, the full beauty of his tone together with purest intonation. The recording technique could ideally catch his intimate and personal playing leaving the impression that Ricci would stand in your room and play only for you.

Beyond the limits??

Ricci has arrangen many pieces of music for violin and piano, among them also the Etudes from Frederic Chopin.
While some of them sound beautiful, the violin giving a new dimension to the original composition, in some cases the results are strange.: Take the Etude Nr. XXXXXXXXXX ("Schwarze Tasten Etude"): The pianist is restricted to play an accompanement fro the violin, whilt the violin shows how difficult the melody could be. The listener may get his own impression on the overall result of this exercise.

 

 
©Andromeda 2002