Nicolò Paganini


renowned violinist and composer from Genoa

N. Paganini Nicolò Paganini was born in Genoa, October 27, 1782. He is considered one of the greatest violinists of all time.

His name is also connected with the history of the guitar; his outstanding facility on that instrument was widely known. Though he played only for his pleasure, he often used the guitar as an accompanying instrument for his chamber works, in quartets, and in concerti for violin and orchestra.

His family was poor. He was pushed by his father Antonio into general music study and lessons on the mandolin. Shortly after he began to take lessons on violin under the tutelage of the Genoese teacher Costa.

He made rapid progress, showing an extraordinary talent. In 1795 his father brought him to Parma, the Emilian city near Bologna. Here he came to know the famous violinist Alessandro Rolla, who lived at the time in that city. It can be presumed that on those occasions in which Nicolò visited Rolla he heard the guitar playing, as Rolla usually accompanied his violin students with this instrument; that could well have stimulated his curiosity for the guitar.

In November 1798 Paganini moved to Lucca. Modern musicologists all agree that he displayed a prominent interest in the guitar during this period. Paganini spent the three following years in intense and dedicated study of the guitar, perhaps pushed by mundane and private reasons, rather than from a real artistic need: Paganini had made the acquaintance of a woman of noble rank that he was seeking to impress.

After this episode was ended, however, Paganini never forsook the guitar, using it often for accompanying his violin students. It is quite sure, though, that he never performed in public on the guitar, at least on official occasions, despite reports that he was quite a skilled performer.

His career with the violin was stellar, studded with triumphs throughout Europe, though accompanied unfortunately by chronically precarious physical conditions, not to mention a problematic personal life. In 1822 Paganini met with Rossini in Rome: the two played and composed together music for the carnival, in February of that year. Paganini probably also came to know Mauro Giuliani, who resided in Rome from 1819 to 1823, though this is not documented.

By 1835 Paganini had returned to Genoa for a brief period, and there he had the opportunity of meeting Luigi Legnani, with whom he is supposed to have planned an artistic collaboration; unfortunately no document validates this hypothesis, except the announcement of a concert in Turin on October 9, 1837.

The last part of Paganini's life was plagued by health problems. He came back to Genoa in 1839 and then, after a few months, moved to Nizza, where he died on May 27, 1840.

Paganini's production for guitar is, as is well known, quite plentiful: it comprises more than two hundred works for solo guitar, violin and guitar, and quartets with guitar, most of which remained in manuscript for decades, largely because Paganini was always reluctant to publish his works.

Only five works, four of which call for the guitar, were engraved with his consent during his lifetime; they are the Op. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, all published by Ricordi in 1820. Around 1830 (probably 1832; this is as stated in old Ricordi catalogues) a set of "Bravura Variations" for violin and piano, with an alternate accompaniment for guitar included, was published by that firm; apparently this was done without Paganini's knowledge.

(Transl. M. Penny)

rinted works of Nicolò Paganini

  1. SEI SONATE Op. 2, violin & guitar
  2. SEI SONATE Op.3, violin & guitar
  3. TRE GRAN QUARTETTI Op.4, violin, viola, v.cello & guitar
  4. TRE QUARTETTI Op.5, violin, viola, v.cello & guitar
  5. VARIAZIONI, violin & guitar or pianoforte

Bibliographic Notes