VIEUXTEMPS Henri, Capriccio for solo viola, ‘Hommage à Paganini’

Like other nineteenth-century violinists, the Belgian virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps liked to play the viola, particularly in chamber music. The Capriccio is the last of a set of six posthumously published pieces (the first five are for solo violin), probably composed in the last decade of Vieuxtemps’ life, after his playing career was ended by a series of strokes. It was composed as a tribute to Paganini (whose viola playing had inspired Berlioz to compose Harold in Italy).

‘Capriccio’ might suggest something rather whimsical, but Vieuxtemps’ work is marked Lento, con molta espressione (slow with much expression) and it is rooted in the key of C minor. The effect is rather sombre and elegiac, in spite of the virtuoso demands of Vieuxtemps’ writing, and the piece ends with two, quiet pizzicato chords.

© Nigel Simeone


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