Paganini, Niccolo

Paganini seldom played anything but his own compositions, in which he could show to the best advantage his peculiar style, and never allowed anyone to see his solo score. He only permitted a few of his works to be printed during his life the twentyfour caprices for solo violin, which are so famous, and which have been transcribed for the piano by Liszt and Schumann; two sets of six sonatas for the violin and guitar; and three grand quartets for violin, viola, guitar and cello. After his death were published Concerto in E with orchestral accompaniment; Concerto in B minor with Rondo a la Clochette, for violin and orchestra; the famous variations, Le Streghe (Witches' Dance); God Save the King, variations for violin and orchestra; Le Carnaval de Venise; Moto Perpetuo, for violin and orchestra; variations on Non piu mesta, from Rossini's La Cenerentola; variations on the air Di tanti palpiti; and sixty variations in all keys on the air Barucaba, for violin with piano and guitar accompaniment. The rest of his compositions, including a number of concertos and sonatas, have been lost. The original manuscripts of fourteen of his works were discovered at Perugia in 1907. His first composition was a sonata, written at the age of eight, which is among the lost. He promised to reveal the secret of his remarkable playing before he died, but as he did not it still remains a mystery. He used unusually thin strings, and tuned them differently for different effects, sometimes pitching them a semi-tone higher than ordinary. His chromatic and staccato passages were remarkable, and the way in which he combined the pizzicato and arco, plucking the strings with his left hand and at the same time using his bow with the right, was most astonishing. Some of these effects he revived, but the others resulted from experiments which he was constantly trying from a very early age; and though he had instruction, his system was mostly his own, eked out by steady practise until he was thirty years old. After that time it is said that he never touched his instrument to do anything but tune it, except at concerts and to play a few passages at rehearsals, where he was very severe with the orchestra, yet ready to praise them when they did well. This unique figure, whose career so much resembled a meteor, wrought a revolution in the violin world, and though he left no direct disciple his influence is seen in the French and Belgium Schools. By many he has been severely criticized as a charlatan, but Vieuxtemps, himself so renowned a violinist, who had heard the wonderful virtuoso, is reported to have said, "He is the greatest of us all."