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ClassicsOnline Home » LIPINSKI, K.: Capriccios, Opp. 10 and 27 (Xi Chen)
Polish-born virtuoso Karol Józef Lipiński was recognized as one of the best violinists of the 19th century, rivalling Paganini for the title of greatest violinist in Europe. Lipiński dedicated his Capriccios, Op 10 to Paganini, but ultimately combined Paganini’s innovations with the depth of Spohr, Tartini and Viotti’s musical philosophies to create his own unique style and avoid bravura display alone. The Capriccios, Op 27 explore rich expression and tone as well as spectacular runs and double-stopping.
Karol Józef Lipiński (1790–1861)
Three Capriccios for Solo Violin, Op. 10 • Three Capriccios for Solo Violin, Op. 27
Karol Józef Lipiński was born on 30 October 1790, on the estate of the aristocratic Potocki family near Lublin, Poland. His father was director of music for the Potockis, and in this music-friendly aristocratic setting young Karol soon surpassed his father’s musical ability. By the age of eight Lipiński was playing concertos of Pleyel and Giornovichi. His father suggested a tour in the manner of Mozart, but Lipiński flatly refused, showing a humility that remained a part of his character. Following the partition of Poland in 1795 by Prussia, Austria, and Russia, thus ending Poland’s independent existence until the twentieth century, many Polish court orchestras were disbanded, and the Potocki orchestra was no exception. Lipiński’s father moved the family to Lwów (the German Lemberg, capital of the Austrian partition called Galicia), where he served as Kapellmeister of Count Starzeński’s musical establishment. He shared some of his father’s duties as Kapellmeister, composing several dances and three symphonies before 1810. After a brief flirtation with the cello, Lipiński returned to the violin with renewed passion and obsessive practice, never sure that his technique was fine enough, though he would soon rival Paganini for the title of greatest violinist in Europe. In 1809 he was appointed concertmaster of the Lwów Theatre. Promoted to Kapellmeister in 1812, he was able to champion serious dramatic efforts while using his own talents in a lyric or comic way. Lipiński’s career in light opera began when he met the dramatist and impresario Jan Kamiński. whose productions often featured music—the Austrians allowed Polish performances in the German theatre twice a week. Soon Lipiński was contributing music for operettas, the first of which, The Danube Mermaid, was performed in 1814. His solid professional attainments provided a level of financial security that enabled him to marry his life-long love Regina Garbaczynska. In 1814 Lipiński was granted an extended release from his theatre duties to visit Vienna, and while in the city made the acquaintance of Louis Spohr, one of the finest violinist-composers in Europe. Lipiński heard Spohr play in February 1815 and was so impressed that he abandoned the theatre and decided to pursue the life of a virtuoso. He spent two years preparing for public performance, and first performed as a committed virtuoso in Lwów in May 1817. Later that year he departed for Italy with the aim of hearing Paganini. Catching up with the Italian master in Padua, Lipiński was invited by Paganini to dinner and to breakfast the following day. Lipiński played for Paganini his Three Capriccios, Op. 10, which he had dedicated to the Italian. Paganini immediately picked up his guitar and played an accompaniment, much to Lipiński’s delight. In April 1818 the two violinists appeared in Piacenza, performing one of Kreutzer’s Symphonie Concertantes for Two Violins and Orchestra. Paganini invited Lipiński to tour Italy with him, but Lipiński missed his wife, who was about to give birth, and returned home. On the way he met one of the last surviving pupils of Tartini and was much impressed, and while continuing to admire Paganini, he followed more closely the Tartini-Spohr artistic ethos. He gave concerts in Galicia and neighbouring areas beginning in 1821; in 1823 he gave joint concerts in Kiev with the pianist Maria Szymanowska and in Poznań with the violinist Jacques Mazas. He appeared in Warsaw in 1827–28, and was appointed First Violinist of the Royal Polish Court. At the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I as King of Poland in 1829, both Lipiński and Paganini gave concerts in Warsaw, which caused a furor in the press, especially since an unsuccessful attempt was made to dissuade Lipiński from performing. From 1830 to 1833 Lipiński suspended touring, with the aim, again, to perfect his technique. In 1834 he performed in Poznań and Warsaw, and in 1835–1840 he toured Germany, where he met the Schumanns and unsuccessfully vied for the position of concertmaster in Mendelssohn’s Gewandhaus Orchestra; France, where Chopin helped him organize concerts and taught his daughter the piano; and Russia, where he met Richard Wagner in Riga. In 1839 Lipiński moved his family to Dresden after his appointment as concertmaster of the royal orchestra. There he worked with Wagner and Berlioz, became friends with Robert and Clara Schumann, and mentored a younger generation of violinists, among them Wieniawski and Joachim. In 1840 Paganini died and bequeathed his eight best instruments to the eight best violinists in Europe—he gave Lipiński an Amati. By 1846 Lipiński was gradually withdrawing from the rigours of the life of a virtuoso, concentrating on preparing or re-editing his compositions for publication. He still played in public occasionally and performed Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata with Liszt in 1853. His beloved wife died in 1856, and by 1859 his health had begun to decline. He moved to an estate near Lwów in 1861 and established a music school for peasant children, but died shortly afterwards on 16 December 1861.
Lipiński’s music is one of the glories of the great tradition of nineteenth-century violin playing. Though mastering the innovations of Paganini, he disdained “empty” technique devoid of musical depth and preferred the musical philosophy of Spohr, Tartini, and the French school following Viotti. Tone was most important to Lipiński, and while using many of Paganini’s techniques (such as chromatic glissando, double trills, extensive use of double-stops), he rejected certain elements, including some bowings (staccato volant, saltato, ricochet), and rapid alternating pizzicato and bowed notes. Among his compositions are five violin concertos, of which the most famous is the second, the Militaire, while another is lost, paraphrases on opera tunes, several sets of variations, and assorted miscellaneous works featuring the violin.
Lipiński wrote his Three Capriccios for Violin Solo, Op. 10, in about 1817–1818 in preparation for his first meeting with Paganini, to whom they are dedicated. Capriccio No.1 in E major has only one tempo marking throughout—Moderato. The capriccio begins with half note (minim) octave double stops and a vigorous continuation; the energy (and the double-stopping) hardly abates throughout the piece. Capriccio No. 2 in F sharp minor is also marked Moderato, but has a leaner sound—the opening section is nearly devoid of Lipiński’s usual doublestops. The vigour of the opening section is briefly arrested by several Adagio measures; this is followed by an extended theme on the G string. Eventually doublestopping heightens the tension before a scampering of sixteenth notes (semiquavers) leads to a chromatic scale run just before the conclusion. Capriccio No. 3 in E major begins with a long-breathed Adagio, which shows to fine effect Lipiński’s love of tone, the opening measures consisting of whole notes (semibreves) in double-stops. This beautiful Adagio is followed by the main Allegro con fuoco section, which begins with a theme mainly in triplets and then triplets in double-stopped thirds. There is much double-stopping of all sorts, and one section features double-stops that alternate an eighth-note (quaver) figure, another a theme in octaves; three- and four-note chords abound, while other sections have various intervals in succession.
The Three Capriccios for Solo Violin, Op. 27, “de Concert dans le style dramatique” were written during 1830–1833, one of the most productive periods of Lipiński’s compositional career—his Second Violin Concerto (Militaire) dates from these years. Lipiński’s strategy in these capriccios varies slightly from those of Op. 10. While the the latter are mainly in one tempo throughout, the Op. 27 Capriccios are constructed more in the nature of suites with clearly delineated sections and differing tempos. Capriccio No. 1 in B flat minor begins Allegretto ma energico in 6/8 time with suppressed energy that soon flowers into double-stopping rhythmic material with a triplet pattern. The following Andantino’s soprano line is accompanied throughout by tremolos. An Allegretto is next: a heavily rhythmic theme is temporarily spelled by a misterioso section in double-stopped thirds before the rhythmic material returns, and the section ends with a descending sixteenth note (quaver) scale in artificial harmonics (thus creating a “flute-like” tone). The succeeding Larghetto is double-stopped throughout, and the Capriccio ends with a Vivace section in B flat major, featuring an ascending run of artificial harmonics near the end. Capriccio No. 2 in G sharp minor opens with an improvisatory Largo. Chromatic runs, artificial harmonics, and double-stopping of all kinds are used throughout and the section ends with a cadenza-like passage. The 2/4 Allegro that follows begins with quarter notes (crotchets) played against triplets, and this striking figure occurs throughout. The Vivo section is more elfin in character, and after a Moderato quasi Andante and a brief Andante the Vivo material returns, this time concluding the capriccio with an heroic coda featuring arpeggios, artificial harmonics, and double-stops. Capriccio No. 3 in G minor starts with an Adagio introduction followed by a brief Andantino. The succeeding staccato Allegro melts into a con passione passage played without double-stops. An Andante, marked deciso, follows and is heavily chorded, but ends quietly before giving way to a rhythmic Allegro con moto. The Allegro l’istesso tempo features arpeggios, chords and a cadenza passage that is succeeded by a più lento section entirely in artificial harmonics before reverting to the arpeggios of the Allegro l’istesso tempo. The following Risvegliato ma non troppo presto is a brief eruptive statement that is followed by a sweet Adagio sostenuto and then an Allegro. The concluding Vivo is a fitting ending of the capriccio; it contains chords, doublestops, artificial harmonics, and rapid arpeggios.
Bruce R. Schueneman
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LIPINSKI, K.: Capriccios, Opp. 10 and 27 (Xi Chen)