The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Thomas Zehetmair (violin)
Composer: Paganini

Approximately 15 years on from his original Teldec recording of Paganini’s notorious caprices, Thomas Zehetmair’s second reading demonstrates greater technical assurance and musical maturity; even the most challenging passages are mastered with pleasing tone and intonation and with the various voices astutely balanced. It also cultivates a remarkable flexibility of expression with telling use of rubato, although this latter ploy is sometimes used to excess, distorting somewhat the overall effect of caprices nos.1 and 4.

Occasional improvisatory additions, particularly in some of the da capo reprises, also give these interpretations a new creative individuality. Zehetmair even shortens and varies slightly the da capo in no.20, adds effective ornamentation in, for example, no.4, and allows himself particular free rein in no.15. He also takes the liberty of introducing artificial double harmonics in nos.9 and 13 and imbues his readings with striking character, shape and sense of drama. Just sample the cackles in no.13, the dynamic differentiation in no.2, the haunting contrasts in no.3, the demonic middle section of no.19 and the imaginative timbral variety in nos.16 and 21.

The close recording, made in the reverberant acoustic of an Austrian monastery, produces a certain explosiveness of attack but lends a laudable clarity of detail.