PAGANINI CAPRICES, DAVID VERNIER
15 May, 2006
Web Recording of the month
You might think this is some kind of gimmick, an indulgence performed by someone with entirely too much time on his hands and not enough legitimate repertoire of his own to practice–but no musician this talented spends six years working on some kind of clever trick, even one as interpretively dazzling and technically impressive as this.
Saxophonist Raaf Hekkema’s transcriptions of all 24 Paganini Caprices are works of unusual dedication to the integrity of the original while also, in the true spirit of the great 19th-century virtuosos, fully exploiting the far ends of saxophone technique–including such devices as vocalizing, circular breathing, and multiphonics. The result is a remarkable feat of sheer determination coupled with the kind of consummate mastery and showmanship that Paganini certainly would have appreciated.
Hekkema uses both soprano and alto saxophones, not just for variety but in order to accommodate necessary transpositions and playable keys. Unless you’re a real sax junkie, you probably will find the timbre fatiguing after 15 or 20 minutes (the program is more than 80 minutes long!), even though Hekkema does his best to vary his instruments’ voices within and among the 24 pieces. But you will be impressed–and you’ll also swear that at times you’re listening to more than one player! The sound is ideal, and Hekkema provides informative notes about each transcription. He even offers the sheet music for these Caprices for sale on his website. (I wish other performers who produce original performing editions for their recordings would follow his lead.)