Niccolò Paganini


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(b Genoa, 1782; d Nice, 1840).

It. violinist and composer. Regarded as greatest of all vn. virtuosos. Made first tour at 13 and comp. difficult pieces for himself to play. During a love affair in 1801–4 he took up the guitar, for which he composed 6 str. qts. with a guitar part, and other works. Returned to platform 1805 with sensational success. Dir. of mus. to Princess of Lucca 1805–9. Milan début 1813, Vienna 1828, Paris and London 1831. In Paris in 1833 commissioned va. conc. from Berlioz, the result being Harold en Italie, but he never played it. From 1834 he made few appearances: for some years he had been suffering from cancer of the larynx which killed him in 1840. He left a fortune and was generous to colleagues in need. Owned vns. by Stradivarius, Guarnerius, and Amati, also Stradivarius va. and db. His Mephistophelean appearance led to stories that his virtuosity stemmed from diabolical powers; he was a skilled showman and although his feats as a virtuoso are no longer regarded as unique or unapproachable, he pioneered the use of harmonics, tuned his instr. to obtain special effects, used several styles of bowing, and exploited staccato and pizzicato as never before. His intonation was unfailingly accurate. Works incl.:

vn. concs.:

Rondo à la clochette

No.1 in E♭ (usually played in D) (?1817), No.2 in B minor, with (1826), No.3 in E major (1826), No.4 in D minor (1830), No.5 in A minor (1830), and the so‐called No.6 in E minor (comp. c.1815) (and others lost).

vn. and orch.:

Le StregheGod Save the King

(Witches' Dance) based on air by Süssmayr; Variations on ;

Moto perpetuo, allegro de concertNon più mestaLa CenerentolaDi tanti palpitiTancredi

; Variations on (); Variations on the air ().

vc. and orch.:

Variations on Theme of Rossini

for 2 vc.

solo vn.:

24 CapricesLe Carnaval de Venise

(c.1805); Variations on ;

Duo in C

; Recitative and Variations on 3 airs for the 4th string.

chamber music:

12 sonatas for vn. and guitar; 6 qts. for vn., va., guitar, and vc.; vn. sonata with vn. and vc. acc.;


for vn., vc., guitar; 3 str. qts. (1800–5).

Subjects: Music.

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