Niccolo Paganini *


Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) was born in Genua, Italy. He got his first violin lessons from his father and a short period later, he was taught by the best teachers of Genua. When he took off to Parma at the age of 13 to study music, he appeared so skilled that no teacher could add anything to it. Slightly disappointed, the young Niccolo started self-study, developing his virtuosity that some characterized as “diabolical”.

After a brief period as court musician at the court of Elisa Bacciocchi, Napoleon’s sister in Lucca, Paganini decided to become a free-lance musician and started a tour all over Europe that yielded him riches and fame. His lifestyle was exorbitant, he spent money faster than he could earn it. For instance, he was a passionate gambler and even tried to open a casino in Paris. Paganini passed away in Nice after a wild life, not far away from Monte Carlo that would turn into a gambler’s paradise (in combination with hell, of course) later.

Paganini’s playing talents were appraised more than his gift for composition. He wrote 24 Caprices for violin that were so difficult that no one except Paganini himself could play them. That gave rise to the rumour that he had a pact with the devil. Obviously, this was nonsense. A special abnormality in the joints of his fingers enabled him to execute the “diabolical” double stops.

Paganini was an excellent guitarist, his Sonatas for Violin and Guitar being a perfect example. He had a repertoire for solo guitar as well, including the 43 Ghiribizzi and the 37 Sonatas



A Ghiribizzo is a musical pleasantry. Niccolo Paganini (1782 – 1840) wrote 43 Ghiribizzi for an unknown Neapolitan girl. Normally Paganini’s guitar works are packed with technical difficulties and painful stretches (his fingers were sooo long), but in this set he checked himself. He succeeded to write pieces with a strong musical idea and some Paganinian virtuosity nevertheless.

Paganini noted down his pieces in a number of manuscripts. Obviously, there are inaccuracies and interpretation problems with quick hand writing, particularly because Paganini did not write down all variations and improvisations.

The Italian Giuseppe Gazzeloni has interpreted and edited a great deal of Paganini’s manuscripts for more or less modern notation. This is no limitation for the player to take the well-founded freedom of improvisation for Paganini’s music, like you hear with the performances of Pavel Steidl. For his version, Gazzeloni used the conventional 19th century notation that has some ambiguities concerning the duration of simultaneous notes, particularly the bass lines. I have tried to make a clear separation for these bass lines as a playing aid for myself. I guess it is not up to musicological standard, but it helps me out.


A page with movements from the Sonatas by Niccolo Paganini. He composed 37 little Sonatas that include two movements. The Grande Sonata features the classical three movements.

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