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Paganini, Nicolò

Born: Genoa, 27 Oct 1782
Died: Nice, 27 May 1840
Nationality: Italian violinist and composer

By his technique and his extreme personal magnetism he was not only the most famous violin virtuoso but drew attention to the significance of virtuosity as an element in art. He studied with his father, Antonio Cervetto and Giacomo Costa and composition with Ghiretti and Paer in Parma. From 1810 to 1828 he developed a career as a "free artist" throughout Italy, mesmerizing audiences and critics with his showmanship; notable compositions were the bravura variations "Le streghe" (1813), the imaginative 24 Caprices op.1 and the second and third violin concertos, surpassing in brilliance any that had been written before. After conquering Vienna in 1828 he was equally successful in Germany (Goethe, Heine and Schumann admired him), Paris and London (1831-4). His hectic international career finally shattered his health in 1834, when he returned to Parma. Apart from his unparalleled technical wizardry on the instrument, including the use of left-hand pizzicato, double-stop harmonics, "ricochet" bowings and a generally daredevil approach to performance - all of which influenced successive violinists (Ernst, Bériot, Vieuxtemps) - he is most important for his artistic impact on Liszt, Chopin, Schumann and Berlioz, who took up his technical challenge in the search for greater expression in their own works.

Selected Works Include:

Violin and orchestra
  • 6 concertos
  • circa 12 sets of variations, including Le streghe (1813)
  • sonatas
  • miscellaneous pieces
Chamber music
  • 32 sonatas, 4 sonatinas and 2 sets of variations for vn, gui
  • qts and other works with gui
  • 3 str qts
  • Vn Sonata (19830)
  • other vn pieces with pf
  • 24 Caprices, vn (circa 1805)
  • variations for vn
  • gui pieces
Vocal music
  • songs, duet

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