Niccolò (or Nicolò) Paganini (Italian: [ni(k)koˈlɔ ppaɡaˈniːni] (listen); 27 October 1782 – 27 May 1840) was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He was the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. His 24 Caprices for Solo Violin Op. 1 are among the best known of his compositions, and have served as an inspiration for many prominent composers.
Niccolò Paganini was born in Genoa, then capital of the Republic of Genoa, the third of the six children of Antonio and Teresa (née Bocciardo) Paganini. Paganini's father was an unsuccessful trader, but he managed to supplement his income through playing music on the mandolin. At the age of five, Paganini started learning the mandolin from his father, and moved to the violin by the age of seven. His musical talents were quickly recognized, earning him numerous scholarships for violin lessons. The young Paganini studied under various local violinists, including Giovanni Servetto and Giacomo Costa, but his progress quickly outpaced their abilities. Paganini and his father then traveled to Parma to seek further guidance from Alessandro Rolla. But upon listening to Paganini's playing, Rolla immediately referred him to his own teacher, Ferdinando Paer and, later, Paer's own teacher, Gasparo Ghiretti. Though Paganini did not stay long with Paer or Ghiretti, the two had considerable influence on his composition style.
The French invaded northern Italy in March 1796, and Genoa was not spared. The Paganinis sought refuge in their country property in Romairone, near Bolzaneto. It was in this period that Paganini is thought to have developed his relationship with the guitar. He mastered the guitar, but preferred to play it in exclusively intimate, rather than public concerts. He later described the guitar as his "constant companion" on his concert tours. By 1800, Paganini and his father traveled to Livorno, where Paganini played in concerts and his father resumed his maritime work. In 1801, the 18-year-old Paganini was appointed first violin of the Republic of Lucca, but a substantial portion of his income came from freelancing. His fame as a violinist was matched only by his reputation as a gambler and womanizer.
In 1805, Lucca was annexed by Napoleonic France, and the region was ceded to Napoleon's sister, Elisa Baciocchi. Paganini became a violinist for the Baciocchi court, while giving private lessons to Elisa's husband, Felice. In 1807, Baciocchi became the Grand Duchess of Tuscany and her court was transferred to Florence. Paganini was part of the entourage, but, towards the end of 1809, he left Baciocchi to resume his freelance career.
For the next few years, Paganini returned to touring in the areas surrounding Parma and Genoa. Though he was very popular with the local audience, he was still not very well known in the rest of Europe. His first break came from an 1813 concert at La Scala in Milan. The concert was a great success. As a result, Paganini began to attract the attention of other prominent, though more conservative, musicians across Europe. His early encounters with Charles Philippe Lafont and Louis Spohr created intense rivalry. His concert activities, however, were still limited to Italy for the next few years.
In 1827, Pope Leo XII honoured Paganini with the Order of the Golden Spur. His fame spread across Europe with a concert tour that started in Vienna in August 1828, stopping in every major European city in Germany, Poland, and Bohemia until February 1831 in Strasbourg. This was followed by tours in Paris and Britain. His technical ability and his willingness to display it received much critical acclaim. In addition to his own compositions, theme and variations being the most popular, Paganini also performed modified versions of works (primarily concertos) written by his early contemporaries, such as Rodolphe Kreutzer and Giovanni Battista Viotti.
Paganini's travels also brought him into contact with eminent guitar virtuosi of the day, including Ferdinando Carulli in Paris and Mauro Giuliani in Vienna. But this experience did not inspire him to play public concerts with guitar, and even performances of his own guitar trios and quartets were private to the point of being behind closed doors.
Throughout his life, Paganini was no stranger to chronic illnesses. Although no definite medical proof exists, he was reputed to have been affected by Marfan syndrome or Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. In addition, his frequent concert schedule, as well as his extravagant lifestyle, took their toll on his health. He was diagnosed with syphilis as early as 1822, and his remedy, which included mercury and opium, came with serious physical and psychological side effects. In 1834, while still in Paris, he was treated for tuberculosis. Though his recovery was reasonably quick, after the illness his career was marred by frequent cancellations due to various health problems, from the common cold to depression, which lasted from days to months.
In September 1834, Paganini put an end to his concert career and returned to Genoa. Contrary to popular beliefs involving his wishing to keep his music and techniques secret, Paganini devoted his time to the publication of his compositions and violin methods. He accepted students, of whom two enjoyed moderate success: violinist Camillo Sivori and cellist Gaetano Ciandelli. Neither, however, considered Paganini helpful or inspirational. In 1835, Paganini returned to Parma, this time under the employ of Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, Napoleon's second wife. He was in charge of reorganizing her court orchestra. However, he eventually conflicted with the players and court, so his visions never saw completion. In Paris, he befriended the 11-year-old Polish virtuoso Apollinaire de Kontski, giving him some lessons and a signed testimonial. It was widely put about, falsely, that Paganini was so impressed with de Kontski's skills that he bequeathed him his violins and manuscripts.
In 1836, Paganini returned to Paris to set up a casino. Its immediate failure left him in financial ruin, and he auctioned off his personal effects, including his musical instruments, to recoup his losses. At Christmas of 1838, he left Paris for Marseilles and, after a brief stay, travelled to Nice where his condition worsened. In May 1840, the Bishop of Nice sent Paganini a local parish priest to perform the last rites. Paganini assumed the sacrament was premature, and refused.
A week later, on 27 May 1840, Paganini died from internal hemorrhaging before a priest could be summoned. Because of this, and his widely rumored association with the devil, the Church denied his body a Catholic burial in Genoa. It took four years and an appeal to the Pope before the Church let his body be transported to Genoa, but it was still not buried. His body was finally buried in 1876, in a cemetery in Parma. In 1893, the Czech violinist František Ondříček persuaded Paganini's grandson, Attila, to allow a viewing of the violinist's body. After this episode, Paganini's body was finally reinterred in a new cemetery in Parma in 1896.
Though having no shortage of romantic conquests, Paganini was seriously involved with a singer named Antonia Bianchi from Como, whom he met in Milan in 1813. The two gave concerts together throughout Italy. They had a son, Achille Ciro Alessandro, born on 23 July 1825 in Palermo and baptized at San Bartolomeo's. They never legalized their union and it ended around April 1828 in Vienna. Paganini brought Achille on his European tours, and Achille later accompanied his father until the latter's death. He was instrumental in dealing with his father's burial, years after his death.
Throughout his career, Paganini also became close friends with composers Gioachino Rossini and Hector Berlioz. Rossini and Paganini met in Bologna in the summer of 1818. In January 1821, on his return from Naples, Paganini met Rossini again in Rome, just in time to become the substitute conductor for Rossini's opera Matilde di Shabran, upon the sudden death of the original conductor. Paganini's efforts earned gratitude from Rossini.
Paganini met Berlioz in Paris, and was a frequent correspondent as a penfriend. He commissioned a piece from the composer, but was not satisfied with the resultant four-movement piece for orchestra and viola obbligato Harold en Italie. He never performed it, and instead it was premiered a year later by violist Christian Urhan. He did however write his own Sonata per Gran Viola Op. 35 (with orchestra or guitar accompaniment). Despite his alleged lack of interest in Harold, Paganini often referred to Berlioz as the resurrection of Beethoven and, towards the end of his life, he gave large sums to the composer. They shared an active interest in the guitar, which they both played and used in compositions. Paganini gave Berlioz a guitar, which they both signed on its sound box.
Paganini was in possession of a number of fine string instruments. More legendary than these were the circumstances under which he obtained (and lost) some of them. While Paganini was still a teenager in Livorno, a wealthy businessman named Livron lent him a violin, made by the master luthier Giuseppe Guarneri, for a concert. Livron was so impressed with Paganini's playing that he refused to take it back. This particular violin came to be known as Il Cannone Guarnerius. On a later occasion in Parma, he won another valuable violin (also by Guarneri) after a difficult sight-reading challenge from a man named Pasini.
Other instruments associated with Paganini include the Antonio Amati 1600, the Nicolò Amati 1657, the Paganini-Desaint 1680 Stradivari, the Guarneri-filius Andrea 1706, the Le Brun 1712 Stradivari, the Vuillaume c. 1720 Bergonzi, the Hubay 1726 Stradivari, and the Comte Cozio di Salabue 1727 violins; the Countess of Flanders 1582 da Salò-di Bertolotti, and the Mendelssohn 1731 Stradivari violas; the Piatti 1700 Goffriller, the Stanlein 1707 Stradivari, and the Ladenburg 1736 Stradivari cellos; and the Grobert of Mirecourt 1820 (guitar). Four of these instruments were played by the Tokyo String Quartet.
Of his guitars, there is little evidence remaining of his various choices of instrument. The aforementioned guitar that he gave to Berlioz is a French instrument made by one Grobert of Mirecourt. The luthier made his instrument in the style of René Lacote, a more well-known Paris-based guitar-maker. It is preserved and on display in the Musée de la Musique in Paris.
Of the guitars he owned through his life, there was an instrument by Gennaro Fabricatore that he had refused to sell even in his periods of financial stress, and was among the instruments in his possession at the time of his death. There is an unsubstantiated rumour that he also played Stauffer guitars; he may certainly have come across these in his meetings with Giuliani in Vienna.
Paganini composed his own works to play exclusively in his concerts, all of which profoundly influenced the evolution of violin technique. His 24 Caprices were likely composed in the period between 1805 and 1809, while he was in the service of the Baciocchi court. Also during this period, he composed the majority of the solo pieces, duo-sonatas, trios and quartets for the guitar, either as a solo instrument or with strings. These chamber works may have been inspired by the publication, in Lucca, of the guitar quintets of Boccherini. Many of his variations, including Le Streghe, The Carnival of Venice, and Nel cor più non mi sento, were composed, or at least first performed, before his European concert tour.
Generally speaking, Paganini's compositions were technically imaginative, and the timbre of the instrument was greatly expanded as a result of these works. Sounds of different musical instruments and animals were often imitated. One such composition was titled Il Fandango Spanolo (The Spanish Dance), which featured a series of humorous imitations of farm animals. Even more outrageous was a solo piece Duetto Amoroso, in which the sighs and groans of lovers were intimately depicted on the violin. There survives a manuscript of the Duetto, which has been recorded. The existence of the Fandango is known only through concert posters.
However, his works were criticized for lacking characteristics of true polyphonism, as pointed out by Eugène Ysaÿe. Yehudi Menuhin, on the other hand, suggested that this might have been the result of his reliance on the guitar (in lieu of the piano) as an aid in composition. The orchestral parts for his concertos were often polite, unadventurous, and clearly supportive of the soloist. In this, his style is consistent with that of other Italian composers such as Giovanni Paisiello, Gioachino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti, who were influenced by the guitar-song milieu of Naples during this period.
Paganini was also the inspiration of many prominent composers. Both "La Campanella" and the A minor Caprice (No. 24) have been an object of interest for a number of composers. Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Boris Blacher, Andrew Lloyd Webber, George Rochberg and Witold Lutosławski, among others, wrote well-known variations on these themes.
The Israeli violinist Ivry Gitlis once referred to Paganini as a phenomenon rather than a development. Though some of the techniques frequently employed by Paganini were already present, most accomplished violinists of the time focused on intonation and bowing techniques. Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713) was considered a pioneer in transforming the violin from an ensemble instrument to a solo instrument. In the meantime, the polyphonic capability of the violin was firmly established through the Sonatas and Partitas BWV 1001–1006 of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). Other notable violinists included Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) and Giuseppe Tartini (1692–1770), who, in their compositions, reflected the increasing technical and musical demands on the violinist. Although the role of the violin in music drastically changed through this period, progress in violin technique was steady but slow. Techniques requiring agility of the fingers and the bow were still considered unorthodox and discouraged by the established community of violinists.
Much of Paganini's playing (and his violin composition) was influenced by two violinists, Pietro Locatelli (1693–1746) and August Duranowski (Auguste Frédéric Durand) (1770–1834). During Paganini's study in Parma, he came across the 24 Caprices of Locatelli (entitled L'arte di nuova modulazione – Capricci enigmatici or The art of the new style – the enigmatic caprices). Published in the 1730s, they were shunned by the musical authorities for their technical innovations, and were forgotten by the musical community at large. Around the same time, Durand, a former student of Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755–1824), became a celebrated violinist. He was renowned for his use of harmonics and the left hand pizzicato in his performance. Paganini was impressed by Durand's innovations and showmanship, which later also became the hallmarks of the young violin virtuoso. Paganini was instrumental in the revival and popularization of these violinistic techniques, which are now incorporated into regular compositions.
Another aspect of Paganini's violin techniques concerned his flexibility. He had exceptionally long fingers and was capable of playing three octaves across four strings in a hand span, an extraordinary feat even by today's standards. His seemingly unnatural ability may have been a result of Marfan syndrome.
Notable works inspired by compositions of Paganini include:
The Caprice No. 24 in A minor, Op. 1, (Tema con variazioni) has been the basis of works by many other composers. Notable examples include Brahms's Variations on a Theme of Paganini and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
The Paganini Competition (Premio Paganini) is an international violin competition created in 1954 in his home city of Genoa and named in his honour.
In 1982 the city of Genoa commissioned a thematic catalogue of music by Paganini, edited by Maria Rosa Moretti and Anna Sorrento, hence the abbreviation "MS" assigned to his catalogued works.
Although no photographs of Paganini are known to exist, in 1900 Italian violin maker Giuseppe Fiorini forged the now famous fake daguerreotype of the celebrated violinist. So well in fact, that even the great classical author and conversationalist Arthur M. Abell was led to believe it to be true, reprinting the image in the 22 January 1901 issue of the Musical Courier.
Paganini has been portrayed by a number of actors in film and television productions, including Stewart Granger in the 1946 biographical portrait The Magic Bow, Roxy Roth in A Song to Remember (1945), Klaus Kinski in Kinski Paganini (1989) and David Garrett in The Devil's Violinist (2013).
In the Soviet 1982 miniseries Niccolo Paganini, the musician was portrayed by the Armenian actor Vladimir Msryan. The series focuses on Paganini's relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. Another Soviet actor, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, played Paganini's fictionalized arch-rival, an insidious Jesuit official. The information in the series is generally spurious, and it also plays to some of the myths and legends rampant during the musician's lifetime. One memorable scene shows Paganini's adversaries sabotaging his violin before a high-profile performance, causing all strings but one to break during the concert. An undeterred Paganini continues to perform on three, two, and finally on a single string. In actuality, Paganini himself occasionally broke strings during his performances on purpose so he could further display his virtuosity. He did this by carefully filing notches into them to weaken them, so that they would break when in use.
In Don Nigro's satirical comedy play Paganini (1995), the great violinist seeks vainly for his salvation, claiming that he unknowingly sold his soul to the Devil. "Variation upon variation," he cries at one point, "but which variation leads to salvation and which to damnation? Music is a question for which there is no answer." Paganini is portrayed as having killed three of his lovers and sinking repeatedly into poverty, prison, and drink. Each time he is "rescued" by the Devil, who appears in different guises, returning Paganini's violin so he can continue playing. In the end, Paganini's salvation—administered by a god-like Clockmaker—turns out to be imprisonment in a large bottle where he plays his music for the amusement of the public through all eternity. "Do not pity him, my dear," the Clockmaker tells Antonia, one of Paganini's murdered wives. "He is alone with the answer for which there is no question. The saved and the damned are the same."
A Song to Remember is a 1945 Columbia Pictures Technicolor biographical film which tells a fictionalised life story of Polish pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin. Directed by Charles Vidor, the film stars Cornel Wilde (as Chopin), Merle Oberon (as George Sand), Paul Muni (as Józef Elsner), Stephen Bekassy (as Franz Liszt), and Nina Foch.Caprice No. 13 (Paganini)
Caprice No. 13, nicknamed Devil's Laughter or Devil's Chuckle, is one of Niccolò Paganini's renowned 24 Caprices for Solo Violin. It is the only one of the suite that is in the key of B-flat major.This solo violin piece starts out with scale like double-stopped passages at a moderate speed. The second part consists of high speed runs that exercise left hand flexibility and position shifting, and right hand high speed string changing and detache bowing. The piece then repeats back to the beginning and ends right before reaching the second part for the second time.Caprice No. 16 (Paganini)
Caprice No. 16 in G Minor is one of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices. The meter is triple meter. The caprice consists of a continuous 16th notes. The duration is approximately one and a half minutes.Caprice No. 24 (Paganini)
Caprice No. 24 in A minor is the final caprice of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices, and a famous work for solo violin. The work, in the key of A minor, consists of a theme, 11 variations, and a finale. His 24 Caprices were probably composed in 1817, while he was in the service of the Baciocchi court.
It is widely considered one of the most difficult pieces ever written for the solo violin. It requires many highly advanced techniques such as parallel octaves and rapid shifting covering many intervals, extremely fast scales and arpeggios including minor scales, left hand pizzicato, high positions, and quick string crossings. Also, there are many double stops, including thirds and tenths.Caprice No. 5 (Paganini)
Caprice No. 5 is one of 24 pieces composed by virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini in the early 19th century. The piece is known for its incredible speed and extremely high technical difficulty. Paganini is said to have been able to play it on one string, but there is no evidence to support or refute this.List of compositions by Niccolò Paganini
This is a list of the compositions of the Italian virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840).Moretti and Sorrento
Moretti and Sorrento refers to a thematic catalogue of the works of Niccolò Paganini. The catalogue was commissioned in 1982 by the city of Genoa in celebration of the bicentenary of Paganini's birth. It was edited by Maria Rosa Moretti and Anna Sorrento, hence the abbreviation "MS" is assigned to Paganini's catalogued works.Paganini (1923 film)
Paganini is a 1923 German silent historical film directed by Heinz Goldberg and starring Conrad Veidt, Eva May and Greta Schröder.The film's sets were designed by the art director Robert Neppach.Paganini (1934 film)
Paganini or I Liked Kissing Women (German: Gern hab' ich die Frau'n geküßt) is a 1934 German operetta film directed by E. W. Emo and starring Iván Petrovich, Eliza Illiard and Theo Lingen. It is an adaptation of Franz Lehár's 1925 operetta Paganini.Paganini (1989 film)
Kinski Paganini, also known simply as Paganini, is a 1989 Italian-French biographical film written, directed by and starring Klaus Kinski. The story is based on the life and career of composer and virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini. It was to be Kinski's final film before his death in 1991.
The film also stars Kinski's young wife (Debora Kinski) and son (Nikolai Kinski) alongside him. Klaus Kinski felt that he and Paganini had led similar lives, and both gave "demonic" performances in their own fields that often sparked great controversy.
In his 1999 documentary My Best Fiend, frequent collaborator Werner Herzog explains that Kinski repeatedly asked him to direct the film, but Herzog refused because he thought the script was "unfilmable". Herzog also states that the preparation for his role in Kinski Paganini caused the actor to take on an uncomfortable "alien" air that disrupted Kinski's performance in their last film together, Cobra Verde.Paganini (operetta)
Paganini is an operetta in three acts by Franz Lehár. The German libretto was by Paul Knepler and Bela Jenbach.
Lehár composed the work as a vehicle for Richard Tauber, the acclaimed Austrian tenor, though he assumed the role (with Vera Schwarz as the princess) in Berlin on 30 January 1926, rather than the Vienna premiere which was at the Johann Strauss Theater on 30 October 1925 with Carl Clewing in the title role. Tauber's contract with the Berlin State Opera required him to be in Stockholm at the time of the Vienna premiere. The operetta was so coolly received in Vienna that the Berlin impresario, Heinz Saltenberg, was reluctant to mount it at the Deutsches Künstlertheater without guarantees against losses. In the event, Tauber and Schwarz made it a huge success in Berlin, where it ran for three months. It was the first Lehár operetta specially written for Tauber, who had previously appeared in the composer's Zigeunerliebe in 1920 and Frasquita in 1922 with great success. A new production was mounted in Berlin at the Theater des Westens in April 1930, again with Tauber and Schwarz, and the composer conducting at the opening night on Easter Sunday.
An English version with lyrics by A. P. Herbert was presented by C. B. Cochran at the Lyceum Theatre in London in May 1937, with Tauber as Paganini and Evelyn Laye as Anna Elisa. They recorded seven numbers from the show for Parlophone Records, including the new number 'Fear Nothing' that Lehár had written for the London production.
In 1934 the operetta was adapted into the German film Paganini.The Devil's Violinist
The Devil's Violinist is a 2013 film based on the life story of the 19th-century Italian violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini.The Divine Spark
The Divine Spark is a 1935 British musical film directed by Carmine Gallone and starring Marta Eggerth, Phillips Holmes, Benita Hume and Donald Calthrop. An Italian-language version Casta Diva was shot simultaneously. Both films were made at the Tirrenia Studios in Italy.The House of Three Girls (1918 film)
The House of Three Girls (German:Das Dreimäderlhaus) is a 1918 German silent film directed by Richard Oswald and starring Julius Spielmann, Wilhelm Diegelmann and Sybille Binder. It is based on the operetta Das Dreimäderlhaus.The Magic Bow
The Magic Bow is a 1946 British musical film based on the life and loves of the Italian violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini. It was directed by Bernard Knowles. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival.Violin Concerto No. 1 (Paganini)
The Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 6, was composed by Niccolò Paganini in Italy, probably between 1817 and 1818. The concerto reveals that Paganini's technical wizardry was fully developed. Contemporary audiences gasped at the extended passages of double-stop thirds, both chromatic and in harmonics.Violin Concerto No. 2 (Paganini)
The Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7, was composed by Niccolò Paganini in Italy in 1826. In his Second Concerto, Paganini holds back on the demonstration of virtuosity in favor of greater individuality in the melodic style. The third movement of Paganini's Second Concerto owes its nickname "La Campanella" or "La Clochette" to the little bell which Paganini prescribes to presage each recurrence of the rondo theme. The character of the bell is also imitated in the orchestra and in some of the soloist's passages featuring harmonics. The outcome is a very transparent texture, which gains extra charm of gypsy coloration of the rondo theme. This movement has served as the basis of compositions by other composers, such as the Étude S. 140 No. 3 "La campanella" by Liszt, and Strauss I's Walzer à la Paganini Op. 11.
The concerto is in three movements:
Allegro maestoso (in B minor, ending in B major)
Adagio (in D major)
Rondo à la clochette (in B minor)Violin Concerto No. 3 (Paganini)
The Violin Concerto No. 3 in E major was composed by Niccolò Paganini in 1826. On 12 December 1826, Paganini wrote from Naples to his friend L. G. Germi that, having recently completed his Second Violin Concerto, he had now "finished orchestrating a third with a Polacca", and added: "I would like to try these concertos out on my own countrymen before producing them in Vienna, London and Paris." In the event, the Third Violin Concerto does not seem to have been premiered until July 1828 in Vienna. Since Paganini's death in 1840 concerto wasn't performed for more than a century until it was eventually rediscovered in the late 1960s and first recorded and publicly performed by Henryk Szeryng in 1971.
The concerto is in three movements:
Introduzione. Andantino - Allegro marziale (in E major)
Adagio. Cantabile spianato (in A major)
Polacca. Andantino vivace (in E major)Violin Concerto No. 4 (Paganini)
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, MS 60, is a concerto written by Niccolò Paganini composed in the fall of 1829.