It’s Up for Interpretation – Episode 1 Paganini’s 5th Caprice

In this new series we examine how one piece of music can be so differently re-interpreted from artist to artist, as new parameters in musical approach, orientation and instrumentation are introduced and imposed.

Paganini’s 5th Caprice was written by the virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini in the early 19th century. The piece is known both for it’s extremely difficult technical passages and it’s blisteringly quick tempos.

Here is classical violinist Ray Chen with his version of the piece:

And here is virtuoso metal guitar player Jason Becker, with his performance of the same piece:

Some things to consider:

The size of the guitar’s neck vs. the size of the neck of the violin, and the difference in time, in split seconds that it takes the hand to travel up and down the respective instruments.

For example, more surface area to cover on the guitar, meaning bigger jumps and more of a challenge to meet the tempo.

The excessive use of slurs in this piece also present more of a challenge to the guitar player than the violinist.

For example, the violin has the capacity for playing many more notes in a single bow stroke than the equivalent picking/hammer on/pull off patterns of a guitar player.

Now, just sit back and listen. Let your ears explore the similarities and differences in both of the examples. Enjoy!