Today's Memory

Today’s Memory – Niccolò Paganini

Niccolò Paganini

27 October 1782, Genoa, republic of Genoa – 27 May 1840, Nice, France


Niccolò Paganini was an Italian violist, guitarist, composer and principal violin virtuoso of the 19th century. A popular idol, he inspired the Romantic mystique of the virtuoso and revolutionized violin technique.

After initial study with his father, Paganini studied with a local violinist, G. Servetto, and then with the celebrated Giacomo Costa. He made his first appearance in 1793. In 1797, accompanied by his father, he toured Lombardy, where with each concert his reputation grew. Soon after, gaining his independence he indulged excessively in gambling and romantic love affairs. At one point he pawned his violin because of gambling debts; a French merchant lent him a Guarneri violin to play a concert and, after hearing him, gave him the instrument.

Between 1801 and 1807 he wrote the 24 Capricci for unaccompanied violin, displaying the novel features of his technique, and the two sets of six sonatas for violin and guitar.

Niccolò Paganini – 24 Cprices for Solo Violin, Op.1 • Violin Itzhak Perlman

He was appointed director of music at Piombino by Napoleon’s sister, Élisa Bonaparte Baciocchi. In 1828 Paganini experienced great success in Vienna, and his appearances in Paris and London in 1831 were equally sensational. His tour of England and Scotland in 1832 made him a wealthy man.

Niccolò Paganini – 6 Sonatas for violin and guitar, op. 2

Paganini’s romantic personality and adventures created in his own day the legend of a Mephistophelean figure. Stories circulated that he was in league with the devil and that he had been imprisoned for murder; his burial in consecrated ground was delayed for five years.

Niccolò Paganini – Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major • Limburg Symphony Orchestra Maastricht, Conductor Yoel Levi, Violin Shlomo Mintz

His violin technique, based on that of his works, principally the Capricci, the violin concertos, and the sets of variations, demanded a wide use of harmonics and pizzicato effects, new methods of fingering and even of tuning. In performance he improvised brilliantly. He was also a flamboyant showman who used trick effects such as severing one or two violin strings and continuing the piece on the remaining strings.


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Niccolò Paganini – Violin Concerto No 2 in B minor, Op 7 • Ural Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor Dimitri Liss, Violin Tedi Papavrami



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