Caprice No. 24 for Solo Flute
- Highly recommended
Pan - Journal of the British Flute Society
This is the latest transcription by Jasmine Choi of Paganini’s 24th Caprice, as part of the Jasmine Choi Performance Edition, which features transcriptions that Choi has recorded on YouTube. Her virtuosic recording of this piece went viral back in 2011.
Paganini’s Caprices, originally for violin, pose many difficult technical challenges on any instrument, but also provide a great deal of musical variety. The 24th Caprice is the most famous of the set, where the well-known theme has been used by many composers for their own sets of variations. At first glance Choi’s arrangement of the caprice doesn’t seem to deviate that much from the original violin version and is quite similar to the arrangement by Herman/Wummer, particularly in the treatment of the theme and variations 1–5. For example, the theme and second variation are both an octave higher than the original. This works, given that the flute projects clearly in the upper register, but since all the other variations have a higher tessitura, it might make a welcome contrast to have the theme and second variation in its original octave, exposing a different colour in the low register of the flute, especially since it is marked piano (Choi marks the theme mezzo forte). Choi opts for grace note octaves in the third variation, a classic way to negotiate double octaves. Personally, I prefer the use of harmonics in Marina Piccinini’s version, giving the effect of octaves whilst demonstrating an effective extended technique and different colour.
Variation 6 poses the biggest challenge for transcribers, since the original has cascades of double-stopped thirds. In Choi’s version, she has added some mordents and trills, which appear in other flute arrangements, as well as two tremolos. I would like to see the whole variation expose the tremolo effect a bit more. Piccinini offers a flutter-tongued alternative in her transcription, which also works well.
The most unique part of Choi’s arrangement can be seen in the ninth Variation, where she employs the use of tongue slaps, representing a violin’s left-hand pizzicato. These provide tonal variety, but are written on every note. It might work even better if the pattern that Paganini uses is followed (combining arco and pizzicato), by alternating tongue slaps and normal staccato.
The music is well presented, although the words “Theme” and “Finale” are missing from the score. Overall, a nice arrangement that represents how Jasmine Choi herself plays the piece. It is also great to use for recitals where one doesn’t need the whole book of Caprices.
From the Publisher
Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 (originally for violin) is the famous theme and variations on which countless composers have written their own “Paganini Variations.” When Jasmine Choi recorded her first adaptation for flute in 2011, the YouTube performance went viral and before long surpassed 1,000,000 views. Her slightly altered 2018 Version has since joined the original YouTube to great acclaim and frequent play. The present publication is an even hotter 2020 Version, with all the sparkling facility and insightful nuances of Jasmine Choi’s recordings.
Performance duration (approx): 5'00