As a violinist, Niccolò Paganini is, of course, someone I am in awe of! His compositions are extremely difficult to say the least, yet beautiful and exciting! David Garret, a violinist out of Germany, played him in a movie called “The Devil’s Violinist”. It is cheesy, but the violin playing is amazing! I have become obsessed with Caprice No. 24 as a result! You can check this movie out on Netflix, but I would fast forward to the violin playing…the story line is one I couldn’t even stay interested in… and I will watch almost anything!
In celebration of Paganini’s birthday on the 27th, here are some fun facts for you to share with your students…..
- Born in Genoa, Italy, on October 27, 1782 and died on May 27, 1840 (a/ Wikipedia)
- The third of six children born to Teresa and Antonio Paganini (a)
- He became extraordinary because he practiced incessantly:
- “…set his own schedule of rigorous training, sometimes 15 hours a day, practicing his own compositions, which were often quite complicated, even for himself.” (a)
- He was thought to be touched by the Devil because his playing was so amazing…not that he didn’t play that up a bit!:
- “Paganini’s reputation began to take on mythic proportions—he was often mobbed in the streets. His pure talent, showmanship and dedication to his craft was further augmented by possibly two physical syndromes: Marfan’s and Ehlers-Danlos—one giving him particularly long limbs, especially fingers, the other giving him extraordinary flexibility. These certainly would have factored into his exceptional virtuosity, earning him nicknames such as “the Devil’s Violinist” and “Rubber Man.” But he also perpetuated the mythology with stunts like severing strings on a violin and playing a piece such as the Witches Dance on a sole string.” (a)
- “He would dress all in black and occasionally arrive at his concerts in a black carriage pulled by four black horses. His physique was always quite emaciated and pale, which contributed even more to his “demonic” appearance. Whenever he performed, Paganini’s thin body would sway back and forth eerily on the stage, and his eyes would look white from them having rolled up inside of his head. With his long, wild hair swaying to and fro, he embodied the perfect image of the damned artist.” (d)
- “Another vowed he had seen he had seen the devil helping Paganini with a particularly impassioned performance.” (a)
- In fact, this myth helped him score the best instruments:
- “After borrowing a Guarnerius violin for a single concert, the lender begged him to keep it for fear of coming under Paganini’s supernatural powers. He also won a Stradivarius violin in a similar manner by playing a technical piece by sight which was insisted that nobody could perform even after preparation.” (b)
- Perhaps he took it a bit too far:
- “He was once forced to publish letters from his mother to prove he had human parents.” (b)
- One never thinks about how the greatest composers had heroes, as well:
- “Franz Schubert was mystified by him, Rossini was appalled by him, and Meyerbeer followed him from one concert to another not being able to get enough of his playing. Berlioz has described Paganini as “one of those artists of whom it must be said: ‘They are because they are and not because others were before them’.” In Paris, Liszt came under Paganini’s spell and was so stimulated by his fabulous technical virtuosity, determined to accomplish similar miracles with the piano, and pushed his technique to the highest limits.” (b)
- He was the rock star of his time.
- Imagine the Beatle in the 60’s:
- “…audiences were said to have burst into tears at his execution of tender passages.”
- “…a famous quote by Paganini: “I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet”. (d)
- And in the words of Lenny Cavallaro:
- “I think the true measure of Paganini’s greatness can be determined by the many innovations he introduced and popularized – the use of harmonics, the dazzling arrays of double stops, the excruciatingly difficult passages featuring arpeggios of unprecedented lengths and the virtuosic use of even so mundane a practice as pizzicato (plucked strings). Before Paganini burst onto the scene, these notions were unheard of, as indeed was the idea of the virtuoso himself. He clearly inspired Liszt and Chopin, who in turn greatly increased the possibilities for the piano.” (c)