Three Paganini Caprices. Transcription for violin and piano op. 40 (1918)

Three Paganini Caprices op. 40 were written in the winter and spring of 1918 in Elisavetgrad, at the time of the centenary of the publication of these compositions by the Italian virtuoso in Milan. The Paganini cycle had inspired many composers; one need only mention the bravura piano works by Liszt, Brahms and – closer to our times – Lutosławski. Szymanowski’s aspirations were more modest: he needed a repertoire for the concerts he gave with the violinists who were his friends. Thus he wrote a free paraphrase of three caprices: No. 20 in D minor, No. 21 in A minor, and the most famous one in the cycle, the theme with variations No. 24 in A minor. The presence of the piano provided Paganini’s works with harmonisation, which obviously changed the character of the music. This is most clearly perceptible in Caprice No. 1 which was transformed into a romantic miniature. The first two works are dedicated to Paweł Kochański, the third to Józef Ozimiński. The Caprices were first performed by Wiktor Goldfeld, together with the composer, on 25 April 1918 in Elisavetgrad.