Niccoló Paganini – the Devil’s Violinist

Niccoló Paganini (1782 – 1840) was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer.

Niccoló Paganini (1782 – 1840)

On May 27, 1840Italian violinist and composer Niccolo Paganini passed away. He was the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique.

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. Already Paganini’s father made his living from music. He used to play the mandolin and also taught his son Niccolò how to master the instrument. At the age of seven, the young boy moved to the violin and immediately turned out to be successful. He earned himself several scholarships and was taken to Parma by his father in order to being taught by the famous Alessandro Rolla, who sent him to his own teacher, Ferdinando Paer. At the age of 18, Paganini already worked as first violin of the Republic of Lucca and along with his incredible skills came his reputation as a womanizer and gambler.

After playing at court for a while, Paganini toured through Genoa and Parma. His fame in the area was enormous, in contrast to the rest of Europe, where he was unfortunately only little known. However, things changed after a concert in Milan around 1813Paganini became well known by further leading musicians and during his tour starting in Vienna in 1828, he became famous far beyond Italy’s borders. The musical genius played in Germany, Poland, Britain and France.

In the following period however, Paganini faced serious problems concerning his health. He was reputed to have been affected by Marfan syndrome and additionally, the stress coming from the many concerts and his lifestyle took their toll. Even though he was officially cured quite fast, he had to cancel many concerts due to various health problems and it is also assumed that he suffered from a severe depression at some time. In 1827, Pope Leo XII honoured Paganini with the Order of the Golden Spur. 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. Around 1834, he retired from his career as a concert musician. He now devoted most of his lifetime to composing and publishing further works as well as teaching.

1831 bulletin advertising a performance of Paganini

1831 bulletin advertising a performance of Paganini

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.

Niccoló Paganini passed away on May 27, 1840 and he was buried in Parma several years later. His major works were presumably created between 1805 and 1809 and they are known for being technically imaginative. The solo piece Duetto Amoroso became known as one of his most brilliant, depicting the sighs and groans of lovers on the violin. It is assumed that Paganini influenced many musicians, such as Franz Liszt,[4Robert Schumann,[5Andrew Lloyd Webber, and George Rochberg. In 2013, a movie titled “The Devil’s Violinist” was released starring David Garrett as Niccoló Paganini.

At yovisto academic video search, you may be interested in a concert of Niccolò Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 In A Minor, played by James Ehnes.

References and Further Reading:

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