The Best of Niccolò Paganini (27 October 1782 – 27 May 1840)
Paganini was the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. His Caprice No. 24 in A minor, Op. 1, is among the best known of his compositions, and has served as an inspiration for many prominent composers.
He was born in Genoa, then capital of the Republic of Genoa, the third of the six children of Antonio and Teresa (née Bocciardo) Paganini. Paganini's father was an unsuccessful trader, but he managed to supplement his income through playing music on the mandolin. At the age of five, Paganini started learning the mandolin from his father, and moved to the violin by the age of seven. His musical talents were quickly recognized, earning him numerous scholarships for violin lessons. The young Paganini studied under various local violinists, including Giovanni Servetto and Giacomo Costa, but his progress quickly outpaced their abilities. Paganini and his father then traveled to Parma to seek further guidance from Alessandro Rolla. But upon listening to Paganini's playing, Rolla immediately referred him to his own teacher, Ferdinando Paer and, later, Paer's own teacher, Gasparo Ghiretti. Though Paganini did not stay long with Paer or Ghiretti, the two had considerable influence on his composition style.
Paganini composed his own works to play exclusively in his concerts, all of which profoundly influenced the evolution of violin technique. His 24 Caprices were likely composed in the period between 1805 and 1809, while he was in the service of the Baciocchi court. Also during this period, he composed the majority of the solo pieces, duo-sonatas, trios and quartets for the guitar, either as a solo instrument or with strings. These chamber works may have been inspired by the publication, in Lucca, of the guitar quintets of Boccherini. Many of his variations, including Le Streghe, The Carnival of Venice, and Nel cor più non mi sento, were composed, or at least first performed, before his European concert tour.
Generally speaking, Paganini's compositions were technically imaginative, and the timbre of the instrument was greatly expanded as a result of these works. Sounds of different musical instruments and animals were often imitated. One such composition was titled Il Fandango Spanolo (The Spanish Dance), which featured a series of humorous imitations of farm animals. Even more outrageous was a solo piece Duetto Amoroso, in which the sighs and groans of lovers were intimately depicted on the violin. There survives a manuscript of the Duetto, which has been recorded. The existence of the Fandango is known only through concert posters.
However, his works were criticized for lacking characteristics of true polyphonism, as pointed out by Eugène Ysaÿe. Yehudi Menuhin, on the other hand, suggested that this might have been the result of his reliance on the guitar (in lieu of the piano) as an aid in composition. The orchestral parts for his concertos were often polite, unadventurous, and clearly supportive of the soloist. In this, his style is consistent with that of other Italian composers such as Paisiello, Rossini and Donizetti, who were influenced by the guitar-song milieu of Naples during this period.
On 27 May 1840, Paganini died from internal hemorrhaging before a priest could be summoned. Because of this, and his widely rumored association with the devil, the Church denied his body a Catholic burial in Genoa. 0:00
Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor ('La campanella'), Op. 7, MS 48- Rondo8:27
Sonata for violin & guitar in D major (Centone di sonate, Letter A-2), MS 112-2- Adagio12:23
Sonata for violin & guitar in D major (Centone di sonate, Letter A-2), MS 112-2- Rondoncino16:35
Grand Sonata, for guitar & violin in A major, Op. 35, MS 3- Romanza20:45
Grand Sonata, for guitar & violin in A major, Op. 35, MS 3- Andantino variato29:52
Caprice for violin solo in E major (Andante), Op. 1-1- No. 1 in E major31:46
Caprice for violin solo in A minor (Agitato), Op. 1-5- No. 5 in A minor34:18
Caprice for violin solo in E major 'The Hunt' Op. 1-9- No. 9 in E major37:12
Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor ('La campanella'), Op. 7, MS 48- Adagio44:28
Sonata concertata, for guitar & violin in A major, Op. 61, MS 2- Adagio assai espressivo48:01
Sonata concertata, for guitar & violin in A major, Op. 61, MS 2- Rondeau- Allegretto con brio scherzando50:07
Caprice for violin solo in B flat major 'The Devil's Chuckle,' Op. 1-13- No. 13 in B flat major52:32
Caprice for violin solo in D major (Allegretto), Op. 1-20- No. 20 in D major56:05
Caprice for violin solo in A minor (Theme & Variations), Op. 1-24- No. 24 in A minor1:01:02
Cantabile, for violin & piano (or guitar) in D major, (MS 109)1:05:30
Violin Concerto No.1 in E flat major (usually transposed to D major), Op. 6, MS 21- Rondo- Allegro spirituoso