Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

Considered the greatest violinist ever, Paganini showed his talents at an early age, first with the mandolin and then through his performances and studies with several respected music teachers. In 1795, Paganini studied under Alessandro Rolla, an expert in viola and violin techniques. It is noted that through the flexibility of his hands and his long fingers, Paganini would develop his unusual style that included wide left-hand stretches; double stops (playing two notes at once); and pizzicato (plucking the strings). He also used scordatura (mistuning), ricochet bowing (bouncing the bow against the strings), and a variety of other bowing techniques.


 By 1800, Paganini was touring Italy, performing many concerts, most of the time as a soloist. When playing with an orchestra, during rehearsal he would not play his entire piece. Paganini nicknamed his violin, made by Joseph Guarnerius del Gesù, Il Cannone (the cannon), for its vigorous sound. During his career, he had a replica made. After his death, both were left to the city of Genoa where they are on display. To keep it tuned, the violin is played periodically, and the winner of the Paganini Competition – an event that honors the master and assists aspiring violinists – also plays it.


 In 1813, Paganini moved to Milan, and performed at La Scala, and throughout Tuscany. He debuted in Vienna in 1828, and in London and Paris in 1831. With his health deteriorating, Paganini returned to Italy in 1834, and died in 1840. During his career he wrote 24 caprices (fast and intense solo violin pieces), sonatas, concerti, and quartets.


 Associazione Amici Di Paganini


Paganini Festival


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Written by Janice Mancuso