Personalities | Nicolò Paganini | Early Romantic | Classical

(Nik’-ko-lo Pa-ga-ne’-ne) 1782–1840
Italian violinist and composer

The foremost virtuoso in the history of the violin, Paganini contributed significantly to the development of the instrument’s technique and drew Romantic composers, especially Liszt, to the potential of instrumental virtuosity in expanding expressive range and impact. Paganini first studied with his father, who made him practise long hours, and then with Antonio Cervetto and Giacomo Costa. One of his foremost early influences was the Polish virtuoso Duranowski.

In 1801 he moved to Lucca, where he was involved with the court orchestra; around 1805 he composed his famous 24 Caprices, which contain some of the most difficult violin music ever written. He left Lucca in 1809 and built a growing reputation throughout Italy, mesmerizing audiences and continuing to compose violin works. In 1828 he ventured abroad, astonishing audiences in Vienna and Germany; the cul­mination of this extended tour was his series of concerts in Paris in 1831. Paganini’s inter­national career ended in 1834, when he returned to Italy; his six years of touring had provided him with wealth and fame, but had taken a terrible toll on his health, which continued to deteriorate until his death.

Paganini’s best works show a great com­positional facility and are still performed frequently, but it is his development of violin technique – left-hand pizzicatos, single- and double-stop harmonics, ‘ricochet’ bowing and imaginative fingerings – that remains his most enduring legacy.

Recommended Recording:
24 Caprices, Salvatore Accardo (Deutsche Grammophon)

Introduction | Early Romantic | Classical
Personalities | Antonin Reicha | Early Romantic | Classical


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