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Title: Biographical notice of Nicolo Paganini
Author: Fétis, François-Joseph
Language: English
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[Illustration: Paganini]

  Analysis of his Compositions,

  F. J. FÉTIS.


  SCHOTT & CO., 159, Regent Street, W.






  SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF THE VIOLIN                           1

  ART AND ARTISTS                                              15

  NICOLO PAGANINI                                              26




    THEIR IMITATORS,” _by kind permission of_ MR. G. HART.)



The Instrument.

Despite all contrary assertions, based upon pretended monuments,
Oriental, Greek, and Roman antiquity was unacquainted with instruments
played with a bow. Neither India nor Egypt furnish the least traces of
them; nor do Greece and Italy; nor, in fact, does the whole of the old
civilized world. As I stated in the “Résumé Philosophique de l’Histoire
de la Musique,” the bow comes from the West; it was introduced into
the whole of Europe by the western nations. Though Viols are found
among the modern Arabs in Persia and Turkey, they were taken there
by Europeans in the time of the Crusades. The Goudock of the Russian
peasant, and the Crwth of the ancient Irish, appear to proceed from the
highest antiquity, and to have been the type of instruments of this
nature. The Irish chroniclers speak of musicians who, in the sixth
century, were celebrated for their talent on the Crwth, a species of
Viol with six strings; and Venance Fortunat, a Latin poet who wrote in
609, states distinctly that this instrument belonged to Great Britain.

It is not my intention to follow up here the various transformations
of bow instruments in the middle ages; it will suffice to observe
that there were frequent changes in them from the thirteenth to the
sixteenth century; as much in the common kinds, vulgarly called in
French Rebec, and in German Geige ohne Bunde (Violins without band or
side pieces), which possessed only three strings, as in the improved
Viols, the body of which was formed of belly and back joined by side
pieces, as in our Violins, Tenors, and Basses. The smaller kinds also
possessed only three strings; the larger kind had four; there were also
others with five, six, and seven strings.

In the middle ages, the Rebec, called Rubebbe, possessed but two
strings. It is the same instrument which in Arabia acquired the name of
Rebab. From the fifteenth century it is found with its three strings.
This instrument took nearly the form of a mandoline; the neck and the
body being formed of a single piece, the finger-board being as wide
as the entire instrument, and reaching within a short distance of the
bridge. No passage was left for the bow in the body of the instrument,
but the body was very narrow, and the bridge formed a point for the
middle string to rest upon, so that this string could be touched by
the bow without touching the others. Like all instruments later than
the fifteenth century, the Rebec was made of four different sizes,
the smallest of which was called Discant, or upper; then followed,
in progressively larger proportions, the Alto, the Tenor, and the
Bass. The dancing-master’s Kit, of the latter years of the eighteenth
century, was all that remained of the ancient Rebec.

The Viol was called Vielle in the middle ages. This is the Viola of the
Italians, and the Vihuela of the Spaniards. There were several kinds.
As early as the fifteenth century, one of this kind had a flat belly,
and a place for fixing the strings similar to that of the Guitar. As
in the Lute, and all stringed instruments played with the fingers,
the finger-board was divided into distances for placing the fingers.
From the fifteenth century the bellies of Viols assumed the raised or
vaulted form, the backs remaining flat. The cavities at the side, which
had formerly been very large and straight, were made in the shape of a
section of a circle, and were reduced to the dimensions necessary for
the use of the bow. The raised bellies rendered it necessary to alter
the bridge into the bridge-shape, so as to incline towards the ribs.
Hence the term Bridge, which is called by the Italians, from its form,
Ponticello. The divisions for the fingers on the finger-board were
retained on the Viols up to the second half of the seventeenth century.
During the fifteenth century the vaulted form of Viol possessed five
strings; in the commencement of the sixteenth it had six. The first
string was called in Italy Canto, the second Sotana, the third Mezzana,
the fourth Tenore, the fifth Bordone, and the sixth Basso.

The Viol was divided into three kinds, which were called Upper or
Soprano, Tenor, and Bass. The Tenor was used also for playing the
second upper part, or Alto; it was then tuned a note higher: the tuning
of the upper Viol was, commencing from the first string, D, A, E, C,
G, D; that of the Tenor tuned to Alto, A, E, B, G, D, A; the same
instrument tuned to Tenor, G, D, A, F, C, G; and the Bass, D, A, E,
C, G, D. At the commencement of the seventeenth century, the use of
instruments specially for accompanying the voice became general; there
was added to the other Viols a Double-Bass Viol, which was called
Violone, that is, large Viol. This also had six strings, and was tuned
a fourth lower than the Bass Viol, thus A, E, B, G, D, A. Prior to
1650, this instrument was rarely used in France, it was then called
“Viole à la mode de Lorraine.”

In imitation of the vaulted form of Viol, there was made, already in
the fifteenth century, a small instrument of the same kind, which the
Italians called Violino, that is, small Viol. This is the instrument
which was called Violon in France, and Geige in Germany.

It is probable that the Violin originally had the same number of
strings as the other Viols; that these were tuned a fourth above the
upper Viol, viz., G, D, A, F, C, G; and that the neck also possessed
divisions for the fingers; but it was soon discovered that the
finger-board of the Violin was not wide enough to allow any one to play
with facility on so large a number of strings; and that the space for
the fingers to produce the notes was too narrow to admit of divisions.
These were removed; the strings, reduced to four, were tuned in fifths;
making the first string E, as it is at the present day. It cannot be
doubted that these improvements originated in France; for on reference
to the list of instruments employed in the “Orfeo” of Monteverde,
it will be seen that the Violin was called in Italy, at the end of
the sixteenth century, and the beginning of the seventeenth, “Violino
piccolo alla francese.”

The oldest maker of Violins on record was a native of Brittany, named
Jean Kerlin. He followed his trade about the middle of the fifteenth
century. La Borde, author of the imperfect and voluminous “Essai
sur la Musique,” relates that he saw in Brittany a Violin with four
strings, the neck of which did not appear to have been changed, and
which, instead of the ordinary tail-piece, had a small piece of ivory
inlaid, pierced with four holes. This Violin was thus labelled, “Joann.
Kerlino, anno 1449.” It was afterwards brought to Paris, and Koliker,
a musical instrument maker of that city, had it in his possession in
1804. The belly was more raised than in good modern Italian Violins,
and was not equally rounded at the upper and lower extremities; the
sides were ill-formed and flattened. Its tone was sweet and muffled,
and resembled that of instruments made by Antonio Amati at the close
of the sixteenth century. After Jean Kerlin, there is a lapse of sixty
years in the history of the manufacture of Violins, for the only
maker of this instrument whose name has come down to us is Gaspard
Duiffoprugcar, born in the Italian Tyrol, who commenced making his
Violins at Bologna about 1510, working afterwards in Paris, and at
Lyons. One Violin only of the large pattern which bears his name is in
existence; it is dated 1539. The quality of tone of this instrument
is powerful and penetrating, but when played upon for some time, it
loses its intensity. Like an old man, it needs repose to recover its
faculties. The scroll represents the head of a king’s jester, with
a plaited frill. This Violin belonged to M. Meerts, formerly first
solo violinist of the Theatre Royal, Brussels, and professor at the
Conservatory of that city.

Gaspard di Salo, thus called from being born in the small town of Salo,
on the lake of Garda, in Lombardy, worked in the second half of the
sixteenth century. He was specially celebrated for his Viols, Basses,
and Double-Bass Viols, then more used than the Violin. Nevertheless, an
excellent Violin of his make, dated 1576, was met with in a collection
of valuable instruments which were sold at Milan in 1807; and the Baron
de Bagge was in possession of one of which Rodolphe Kreutzer often
spoke with admiration. These instruments, of rather a large pattern,
possess a powerful tone, approximating to that of the Alto.

Contemporaneously with Gaspard di Salo, the two brothers, Andrea and
Nicolo Amati became famous for the excellence of their Viols and Bass
Viols; they also made excellent Violins, the tone of which was mellow
and agreeable, but they were wanting in power, like all the instruments
made by the members of this family. Andrea and Nicolo, about 1570, made
Violins of a large pattern for the chamber music of Charles IX. King
of France. These instruments were remarkable for the beauty of their
form, and perfection of finish. They were covered with an oil varnish,
of a golden colour, shaded with red. Two of these were seen in Paris
by Professor Cartier about 1810. The successors of Andrea and Nicolo
Amati retained in the family the fame of those artists for more than a
century and a half. Antonio, son of Andrea, Geronimo, his brother, and
Nicolo, son of Geronimo, were instrument makers of high repute, but the
sonority of their Violins and Basses, admirably adapted for the music
of their time, is much too weak for the modern noisy system; however,
Paganini possessed a Violin of Geronimo Amati, of large pattern, which
he prized most highly.

Two Italian makers were also famous at the beginning and towards
the middle of the seventeenth century for their Violins: the first
is Giovanni Paolo Maggini, who had an establishment at Brescia, his
native town. His instruments are dated from 1612 to 1640. The pattern
of these Violins is generally very large; although there are some of
the small size. The bellies are raised, the back, rather flat at the
extremities, swells out exceedingly towards the sides, which are very
wide; the curves being well rounded towards the angles. A double row of
purfling runs round both belly and back, terminating in some instances
in an ornament at the upper and lower parts of the back. Most of
Maggini’s Violins are varnished with spirit of wine, of a deep gold
colour. Their tone is less mellow than that of the Stradiuari, and
less powerful than the Guarnieri; it has more analogy to the tone of
the Viol, and its character is somewhat melancholic. The second maker
of that period celebrated in Italy is Giovanni Granzino; he resided
at Milan, and worked there from 1612 to 1635. His Violins, of large
pattern, resemble those of Gaspard di Salo.

The fame of Italy for the construction of bow instruments attained its
zenith between the middle of the seventeenth century and the first
half of the eighteenth. To this period belong the names of Stradiuari
and Guarnieri. Antonio Stradiuari, better known under the Latinised
name of Stradivarius, the most celebrated maker of Violins, Viols,
and Basses, was born at Cremona in 1664; he reached his eighty-third
year, working until his death in 1747. A pupil of the Amati, he
worked a long time with them, and upon their models. Towards 1700 he
left them, and from that time changed his proportions, increased his
form, lowered the bellies, and was as fastidious in the degrees of
thickness of the wood as he was in the choice of the wood he employed.
Contrary to the principles of the older Italian masters, his thickness
increased towards the centre, in order to give support to the bridge
upon which the tension of the strings bears, and diminished gradually
towards the sides of the instrument. All is calculated, in the works
of this excellent artist, for the better production of tone. To these
advantages are superadded equality in all the strings, grace of form,
finish of details, and brilliancy of varnish. In a large concert room
a good Violin of Giuseppe Guarnieri has more power of sonority; but in
a drawing-room nothing can possibly equal the brilliant mellowness of
a well-preserved Stradiuari. Unfortunately many have fallen into the
hands of unskilful workmen for repairs.

The family of the Guarnieri or Guarnerius has also become illustrious
for the manufacture of bow instruments. This family was also originally
of Cremona, and constantly resided there, with the exception of Pietro
Guarnieri, who settled at Mantua, and still resided there in 1717.
The most celebrated of these makers is Giuseppe Guarnieri, called in
Italy “Guarnieri del Gesu,” from his Violins bearing the mark IHS.
He was born at Cremona at the close of the seventeenth century. It
is said that he learned his trade in the workshop of Stradiuari, but
he never attained his master’s delicacy of finish; on the contrary,
his work evinces very frequently great carelessness. His sound-holes,
nearly straight and angular, are badly shaped; his purfling badly
traced; in fact, his instruments carry no masterly appearance, and one
is tempted to believe that the excellent quality of their tone arises
more from the happy choice of material than from studied principles.
Nevertheless, on close inspection, it is evident positive principles
guided him in the construction of his instruments; he has copied no
maker who preceded him. He had two patterns, one small, the other
large. The instruments of small pattern are the most numerous, their
bellies are slightly raised, and their thickness rather exceeds that
of the Stradiuari. The large patterns which proceed from Giuseppe
Guarnieri are few in number, and rarely met with. It was upon one
of these Violins that Paganini played at all his concerts. The tone
of these instruments is exceedingly brilliant, and carries to a
great distance, but is less round and mellow than the instruments of
Stradiuari, and pleases less near than at a certain distance.

After Stradiuari and Giuseppe Guarnieri, the art seems to have remained
at its highest point of excellence, and the Italian makers appear
not to have sought to improve, contenting themselves with copying
the one or the other of these masters. Lorenzo Guadagnini, a pupil
of Stradiuari, copied the small pattern of his master. The first
and second string of his Violins possess brilliancy and roundness,
but the third is unfortunately muffled. He had a son, who worked
at Milan until towards the end of 1770, following the style of his
father; but his instruments are less sought after. The Gagliani also
copied the Stradiuari, but their instruments are far from equalling
those of the master, doubtless from want of care in the selection of
material. Ruggieri and Alvani copied the form of Giuseppe Guarnieri;
they produced good Violins, which are less valuable, however, than the

The Tyrol lays claim to some excellent makers of bow instruments, the
chief of whom is Jacob Stainer, who was born about 1620, at Absom,
a village near Inspruck. This celebrated maker, at three different
periods, changed his make. Firstly, while pupil of the Amati of
Cremona: the Violins of this period are admirably finished, and are
extremely scarce. The belly is more raised than in the Amati, the
scrolls longer and wider in the lower part. All the labels of these
Violins are written and signed in his own handwriting. One of these
magnificent instruments, dated 1644, was the property of Gardel,
ballet-master of the Opera at Paris, who performed upon it successfully
in the ballet of “La Dansomanie.” Secondly, when established at Absom,
after having married, he produced an immense number of instruments
carelessly finished, from 1650 to 1667. However, after having led a
life of poverty for several years, obliged to hawk his own Violins,
which he sold for six florins each, he received orders from some
noblemen, which improved his position. His genius from this period
took a new flight, and he produced some splendid instruments, which
are recognised by scrolls that represent heads of animals, by the
close veining of the bellies, by the close and even small ribs, and
by the varnish, resembling red mahogany faded by time into a brown
colour. Stainer was assisted at this time by his brother Marcus, who
later in life entered the order of the Brother Hermits, by the three
brothers Klotz (Mathias, George, and Sebastian), and by Albani, all of
whom were his pupils. The reproach attached to Stainer’s instruments
of possessing a nasal tone applies only to this period, the labels of
which are printed; there are, however, some admirable instruments of
this time, which were in the possession of the violinist Ropiquet, of
the Marquis de las Rosas, a grandee of Spain, of the Count de Marp, a
Parisian amateur, and of Frey, an artist of the Opera, and publisher
of music. There is an excellent Tenor of this period, formerly the
property of M. Matrôt de Préville, governor of the port of L’Orient.

The third period of Stainer’s career commences from his retiring into
a convent after the death of his wife. In the tranquillity of the
cloister, he determined to close his artistic life by the production
of _chefs-d’œuvre_. Having obtained some wood of the first quality
through the medium of his superior, he made sixteen Violins--models,
combining every perfection; sent one to each of the twelve chiefs of
electorates of the Empire, and presented the remaining four to the
Emperor. Since then, these instruments are known under the name of
Stainer-électeurs. Their tone is pure, metallic, and aerial, like the
beautiful voice of a woman; they are graceful and elegant in form,
exquisitely finished in all the details, and have a transparent varnish
of a gold colour; such are the qualities which distinguish these
productions of the third and last period of Stainer’s talent. The
labels are in the hand-writing of this celebrated maker. Three of these
rare instruments only are now to be met with; the fate of the others
remains unknown. The first was given by the Empress Maria Theresa to
Kennis, a Belgian violinist from Liège, after whose death it was taken
to England, and became the property of Sir Richard Betenson, Bart.
Another Stainer-électeur was purchased in Germany in 1771 by the Duke
of Orleans, grandfather of King Louis Philippe, for the sum of 3,500
florins. Afterwards, this prince, having discontinued playing the
Violin, gave it to the younger Novoigille, in token of the pleasure he
experienced in hearing him accompany Madame de Montesson. This precious
Violin became the property of the violinist Cartier in 1817; it was
in the hands of this artist when I heard and saw it. The third Violin
Elector was in the possession of the King of Prussia, Frederick William

After leaving Stainer, the Klotz family copied his models of the
second period, and these instruments are not unfrequently mistaken
for those of the master; they are, however, readily distinguished by
the varnish; that of Klotz, instead of a deep red, has a black ground
shaded with yellow; the tone of Mathias Klotz’ instruments is silvery,
but of little power. These artists produced many pupils in the Tyrol,
who imitated the Cremona models; but these imitations are easily
discoverable by the inferior quality of the wood, the varnish, which is
very dark, and the tone, which is deficient in every quality.

The ancient manufacture of musical instruments in France, incontestably
inferior to that of Italy, is represented, during the reigns of Henry
the Fourth and Louis the Thirteenth, by Jacques Bocquay, born at
Lyons, who settled in Paris; Pierret, his townsman, who produced more
instruments, but of inferior finish; Antoine Despons, and Adrien Véron;
these makers generally copied Amati. The Violins of the successor of
Bocquay, Guersan, his pupil, are of small pattern, and finely finished.
They have become extremely scarce; it is supposed that there are not
more than twenty which can be considered as his own make; these are
varnished in oil. The others were made in his workshop by his pupils;
they are of inferior quality, and varnished in spirits of wine. The
contemporaries of Guersan at Paris were Castagnery and Saint-Paul,
whose Violins were formerly esteemed for accompaniment. After these
came Salomon, whose instruments rivalled those of Guersan. Towards the
end of the reign of Louis the Fourteenth, Lagetto enjoyed a certain
reputation. As regards the ancient manufacture in the provinces of
France, there is nothing which rises above mediocrity, with the
exception of Médard, a contemporary of Geronimo Amati, whose models
he copied. He lived at Nancy at the commencement of the seventeenth
century. Lambert, surnamed “Charpentier de la Lutherie,” lived a
century later in the same town. He produced nothing of any note.
Saunier, his pupil, surpassed his master in finish; but in general
Lorraine was the country of industry, not art.

In the modern manufacture of instruments at Paris, Finth is specially
distinguished. He was a German, who worked about 1770, and followed
the proportions of Stradiuari; all his Violins, varnished in oil,
are finished with care. They were greatly sought after in the first
instance, but a change of taste followed, and opinion fell into a
contrary excess. After Finth came Picte, a pupil of Saunier, whose
Violins were given as prizes to the pupils of the Conservatory of
Paris, at the beginning of the present century; they have been esteemed
of little value. Not so with Lupot, who came from Orleans to settle in
Paris in 1794. He studied, with great perseverance, the proportions
of Stradiuari, incontestably the best, and selected the finest wood
that could be obtained. Lupot made the manufacture of Violins his great
study, and their finish a work of love. They are highly esteemed, and
stand next in value with artists to good Cremona instruments.

Thus far we have only seen the manufacture of bow instruments
cultivated by inspiration or by imitation; science was not brought to
bear as an element in the construction of these instruments; but we
have arrived at a period of transition in this respect, less perhaps,
from the results obtained, than from the foundations which have
been laid: and I will first advert to the several essays which have
been made with the view of dispensing with certain portions of the
instrument, considered as obstacles to the free production of vibration.

The first essay of this kind was made in 1816 by François Chanot,
the son of an instrument-maker of Mirecourt, afterwards an engineer
in the navy. Convinced that the best means of producing vibration in
all the various parts of the Violin was to preserve, as far as it was
practicable, the fibres of the wood lengthwise, he concluded that the
shoulders of the ordinary Violin, with their angles, were insuperable
obstacles to a free and powerful quality of tone; he believed, also,
that the hollowing out of the belly to give it the vaulted form was
contrary to theoretical principles, and consequently a radical error.
He was persuaded, moreover, that short fibres favoured the production
of acute tones, and long fibres grave ones. Upon these principles he
constructed a Violin, the belly of which was only slightly raised, the
sound-holes nearly straight, and, in place of sloping the instrument
after the ordinary form, he depressed the sides gradually, similar to
the body of a Guitar. With a view of favouring as much as possible
the vibration of the belly, he attached the strings to the lower
part of it, instead of to the ordinary tail-piece. This done, Chanot
submitted his Violin to the Academies of Sciences and Fine Arts of the
French Institute, and a favourable report of the essay was published
in the “Moniteur Universel” on the 22nd of August, 1817. The judgment
pronounced by these institutions has not been confirmed by the opinion
of artists.

It is to be remarked, that what Chanot conceived to be a discovery was
simply returning to the form of Viols of the middle ages; that the
form had been adopted by able makers, and that there is still extant
a Bass Viol of Gaspard di Salo, the angles of which are removed, in
the possession of M. Frazzini at Milan; that another Bass of the same
form, constructed by Pietro Guarnieri, belongs to M. Cappi at Mantua;
and that M. de Rovetta of Bergamo, possesses an old Violin of the same
form. The artists who made these essays discovered that the results did
not answer their expectations.

A retired officer of the Italian army, M. Galbussera, reproduced
the pretended invention of Chanot in a Violin which he exhibited in
the Palace of Brera at Milan in 1832. M. Antolini, of that city,
a distinguished artist, criticised in a small pamphlet the false
principle which led to this return to primitive forms.[A]

Some years after Chanot’s Violin had been consigned to the department
of the museum specially devoted to this object, Felix Savart, a
physicist of eminence, struck with the discoveries of Chladni on the
communication of vibrations and regularity of sonorous waves, devoted
himself with great ardour to the application of these discoveries in
the construction of bow instruments, and after several experiments,
made with great sagacity, he arrived at the following deductions:--1st,
When two or a larger number of bodies, whatever they may be, come
into immediate contact, and one is directly put into motion, they
all produce the same number of vibrations at the same time; 2nd, All
these vibrations follow parallel directions; 3rd, The increase of the
sound of any kind of body--for example of a string--depends upon the
simultaneity of the vibrations of the bodies with which this string is
in contact; and this increase is carried to its highest point when the
bodies put into motion by communication are in such conditions that, if
they were directly put into motion, they would produce the same number
of vibrations as the body acted upon in the first instance.

The chief consequences of these principles are, that the vibrations
produced by the strings of the Violin are communicated to the belly by
the bridge, from the belly to the back by the sounding-post; and that
the oscillations, in equal number, of all these bodies, cause equal
vibration, and, by similar numbers of oscillations, to the mass of air
held in suspension within the body of the instrument; hence it follows
that the object in the construction of this sonorous box is to favour
as much as possible the communication of the sound-waves, and to bring
them into harmony. In seeking the application of this theory to the
manufacture of bow instruments, Savart fell into error in the first
pamphlet he wrote upon this subject,[B] when he expressed the opinion
that the curves, the angles, and the raised belly adopted by the old
manufacturers could only have proceeded from the prejudices of routine;
but he discovered this error while prosecuting the continuation of his
studies, and he ultimately extolled the proportions of Stradiuari,
which he first believed to be only favourable to good effects from
considerations which the celebrated maker had not perceived.

A manufacturer of the greatest intelligence, M. Vuillaume, sen., born
at Mirecourt, and settled in Paris, devoted himself to the principles
of constructing bow instruments, at the very time Savart was occupied
in endeavouring to discover them. These two ingenious men, in constant
communication with each other on this subject, reciprocally aided each
other. The artist brought to the man of science the tribute of his
experience, and the man of science to the artist the result of his
meditations. Vuillaume had been for a lengthened period engaged in
experiments on the density, homogeneity, and the elasticity of various
woods, convinced of the importance of this matter for the solution of
most of the problems of acoustics relative to the sonorous quality
of instruments. He was thus enabled to discover the most suitable
wood to be used in the repairing of ancient instruments, as regards
their quality or their defects, and the most signal success crowned
his researches. Many instruments of great price, after having been
deteriorated by unskilful hands, recovered their former value through
the ability of this distinguished maker. What he acquired in this
respect, he applied to all instruments of his own manufacture, and
his deep study of the proportions of the best ancient instruments,
joined to his knowledge of the special nature of woods, and the laws
of vibration, has enabled him to produce a multitude of very superior
instruments, which require only time to be stamped with excellence.

It will be seen, from what has been said, that the art of constructing
bow instruments has departed from the prejudices of routine, working
in the dark, and by imitation, to pursue the wake of science, of
observation, and of calculation. There can be no doubt that this is a
real progress; but to shield this progress from all contestation, the
effect of time is requisite. To bring a good instrument to that state
of equilibrium which will make its qualities manifest, on the one hand
it is necessary that the materials employed in its construction should,
for a lengthened period, be submitted to the action of the various
states of temperature and atmosphere; and on the other, that the
elasticity of its various parts should have been put for a long time
into action, to acquire all its development.



Art and Artists.

When singers possessed only part-songs, such as madrigals, and glees
for four, five, or six voices, positive instrumental music was unknown.
Instrumentalists played the voice parts in unison, either on bow
instruments, or the Organ and Spinett, or on wind instruments, such
as Oboes, Flutes, Horns, or Cromorns; for each instrument was then
divided into upper, high, counter, tenor, and bass. The ricercari
and dance tunes for four, five, or six Viols, formed the only
instrumental music properly so called. Little skill was necessary in
the execution, and artists required no greater amount of talent than
the music itself displayed. As regards the Violin, few persons then
cultivated it. In Italy one Giovanni Battista, surnamed Del Violino,
is constantly cited, on account of his Violin performance. He lived in
1590. As regards Giulio Tiburtino and Ludovico Lasagrino, who were in
high repute at Florence about 1540, and of whom Ganassi del Fontego
speaks in his “Regola Rubertina,” they were performers on the Viol,
and not Violinists. The same may be said of Beaulieu, Salmon, and
others, who were at the court of France. According to Mersenne, the
French distinguished themselves as violinists at the commencement of
the seventeenth century. He speaks in terms of great praise of the
elegant playing of Constantine, King of the Violins; of the vehement
enthusiasm of Boccan; of the delicacy and expression of Lazarin and
Foucard. These artists lived in 1630. However, France soon afterwards
lost its superiority in that respect. In 1650, Father Castrovillari, a
monk of Padua, became distinguished by his performance on the Violin,
and by the music he wrote for that instrument. The art of executing
difficulties upon it must have attained a high degree of progress
in the north of Europe, even as far back as 1675, for Jean Jacques
Walther, principal Violin soloist at the court of Saxony, published at
this period several works, among which one is peculiarly remarkable,
and bears for its title “Hortulus Chelicus” (Mayence, 1688, in oblong
quarto of 129 pages), containing sonatas and serenades, to be performed
on a single Violin, with double, triple, and quadruple strings. This
work, which displays great invention, consists of twenty-four pieces.
The title of the last may serve to show the novelties which Walther
introduced to the art of playing the Violin: “Serenade for a chorus
of Violins, Trembling Organ, small Guitar, Bagpipe, two Trumpets and
Kettle Drums, German Lyre, and Muted Harp, for a single Violin.” The
various effects of this piece for a single Violin prove that Walther
was the Paganini of his day.

Giovanni Battista Bassani, a Venetian composer, was a pupil of
Castrovillari for the Violin, and became celebrated for the excellent
style of his instrumental music. Among many other compositions of
various styles, there is a set of his sonatas “da camera” for Violin
and Bass, published in 1679, and thirteen sonatas for two Violins and
Bass, excellent of their kind, and which fixed the style of music for
bow instruments at the period at which they appeared. Bassani had the
honour of being the master of Corelli, the great artist, possessed of
immense talent, who by the elevation of his ideas, and the perfection
of his style, placed himself at the head of the Violin School, and
hastened the progress of the art considerably. Arcangelo Corelli, a
name justly celebrated in the annals of music, will descend to ages
unborn without losing a particle of its glory, whatever revolutions
may be effected in the domains of art. The great artist who bore that
name, no less celebrated for his compositions than for his marvellous
execution at that period, was born in 1653, at Fusignano, a small
town in the States of the Church, and died at Rome, on the 18th of
January, 1713. His contemporaries were not jealous of his glory, for
the whole of Europe welcomed his talent with unanimous acclamations;
his countrymen deposited his remains in the Pantheon, and erected a
monument to him close to that of Raphael. At the expiration of a
century and a half, Corelli is still considered as the primitive type
of the best Violin schools; and although the art has been enriched by
many effects unknown in his day; although its mechanism has attained a
high degree of perfection, the study of his works is still one of the
best for the acquirement of a broad and majestic style. His fifth work,
composed of twelve sonatas for the Violin, with the continued Bass for
the Harpsichord, printed at Rome in 1700, is a masterpiece of its kind.

The art of playing the Violin, and the composition of music for this
instrument, continued during the whole of the eighteenth century to
progress rapidly. At the commencement of this century in almost every
town of Italy, a distinguished violinist was met with. The genius of
Corelli roused that of every artist. At Pisa, Costantino Clari, equally
remarkable as composer and executant; at Florence, Francesco Veracini;
at Bologna, Geronimo Laurenti; at Modena, Antonio Vitali; at Massa
di Carrara, Cosmo Perelli and Francesco Ciampi; at Lucca, Lombardi;
at Cremona, Visconti, whose counsels greatly aided Stradiuari in the
manufacture of his instruments; at Pistoia, Giacopino; at Naples,
Michaele Mascitti. Others, as Matteo Alberti, Tommaso Albinoni, Carlo
Tessarini, and Antonio Vivaldi, all pupils of Corelli, were in their
day not only _virtuosi_ of the first order, but admirable writers of
instrumental music. Vivaldi was one of those predestined artists who
impress upon the art of their time a new direction. To him may be
attributed the first improvement of the concerto; for the _concerto
grosso_ of Corelli is a work in which all the parts agree together, and
each in turn partakes of its interest. “L’Estro Armonico” of Vivaldi,
composed of twelve concertos for four Violins, two Viols, Violoncello,
and Thorough-Bass for the Organ, follows this model; but in his sixth,
seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth work, the genius of
the author takes another flight, and although there is no division of
_solo_ and _tutti_, the principal Violin part governs all the rest. The
melodies of Vivaldi bear a modern complexion that Somis and Geminiani

Among the above-mentioned galaxy of distinguished talent, the model
violinist of the first half of the eighteenth century was Giuseppe
Tartini, born at Pirano, in Istria, on the 12th of April, 1692. His
early days were beset with difficulties, but having had the opportunity
of hearing the celebrated violinist, Veracini, who happened to be at
Venice when he was there, his vocation revealed itself. He withdrew
to Ancona to practise uninterruptedly; and he applied himself in
solitude more especially to the fundamental principle of bow movements,
principles which have since served as the basis of every Violin school
of Italy and of France. Settled in Padua in 1721, as principal soloist
and chapel master of the celebrated church of St. Anthony, he passed
forty-nine years of peace and comfort, solely occupied with the labours
of his art, and died there on the 16th of February, 1770. In 1728,
he established a school in that city, which became famous throughout
Europe, and from which issued a multitude of violinists, among whom the
following may be cited: Nardini, Pasqualino Bini, Alberghi, Domenico
Ferrari, to whom is attributed the invention of harmonic sounds,
Carminati, Capuzzi, Madame de Sirmen, and the French violinists, Pagin
and La Houssaye. Tartini not only contributed towards perfecting the
art of playing the Violin by his compositions for that instrument,
but by the pupils he formed. His style is generally elevated; his
ideas varied, and his harmony pure without being dry. The number of
his published concertos and manuscripts amounts to nearly one hundred
and fifty. There are also nearly fifty sonatas of his, among which is
his “Sonata del Diavolo,” the anecdote of which is not dissimilar to
that told of Paganini. Tartini thus related it:--“One night in 1713,
I dreamt that I had entered into a compact with the devil, who was
to be at my service. All succeeded to my utmost desires. My wishes
were always anticipated, my desires surpassed, by the services of
my new domestic. I thought of giving him my Violin, with the view
of discovering whether he would play some fine things upon it; but
what was my surprise when I heard a sonata so exquisitely beautiful
and original, executed with such consummate skill and intelligence,
that my deepest conceptions could not find its parallel. Overcome
with surprise and pleasure, I lost my breath, which violent sensation
awoke me. I instantly seized my Violin in the hope of remembering some
portion of what I had heard, but in vain. The piece which this dream
suggested, and which I wrote at the time, is doubtless the best of all
my compositions, and I still call it “Sonata del Diavolo,” but it sinks
so much into insignificance compared with what I heard, that I would
have broken my instrument and abandoned music for ever, had my means
permitted me to do so.”

Among the pupils of Corelli, one of the most distinguished was
Geminiani, who was born at Lucca, about 1680. Having terminated his
studies under this celebrated master, he went to England in 1714, made
some good pupils there, and died in Dublin, the 17th of September,
1762, in his eighty-third year. His execution was brilliant and solid,
but his compositions were wanting in imagination, being only a weak
imitation of Vivaldi’s style. Somis, another pupil of Corelli, was born
in Piedmont, towards the close of the seventeenth century, and had
visited Rome and Venice in his youth, for the purpose of learning under
the _virtuosi_ of that period. Corelli made him study his sonatas, and
Somis at first became attached to his style, but when he heard Vivaldi,
he modified his style, and copied him in his compositions. Somis was
the founder of the Piedmontese Violin school, which, after the death of
Tartini, greatly influenced the art of playing upon this instrument.
Baptiste Anet, better known as Baptiste, who received lessons from
Corelli, came to Paris about 1700, and was considered a prodigy,
not at all surprising at a period when, according to Lully, “the
best violinists of the opera, and of the king’s band, were incapable
of playing their parts without previous study.” Rather a mediocre
musician, Baptiste made but one pupil, Senaillé, so that he effected no
improvement in the formation of a French school of violinists. Besides,
he resided only five years in Paris, having accepted a position in
Poland which was offered to him.

The glory of laying the foundation of a Violin school in France was
reserved for Jean Marie Leclair, pupil of Somis, and a celebrated
violinist. He was born at Lyons in 1697. He at first used the Violin
as a dancing master, for in his youth he appeared as a dancer at
Rouen; but having been engaged as ballet-master at Turin, Somis, who
was pleased at hearing him play some dance tunes, gave him lessons,
by which he made rapid progress. After two years’ study, the pupil
surpassed the master. Leclair continued his practice perseveringly, and
ultimately became a celebrated performer. Arriving in Paris in 1729,
he was engaged in the orchestra of the Opera, and afterwards in the
king’s band. The pupils he formed, and the publication of his sonatas,
his duets, and trios, are the starting points of the school of French
violinists. Jean Baptiste Senaillé had also some part in influencing
the first development of this school. Born in Paris, the 23rd of
November, 1687, he took lessons from Queversin, one of the twenty-four
violinists of the king’s great band, and afterwards became the pupil
of Baptiste Anet. The great fame of the Italian violinists of that
period induced him to proceed to Modena, where he received lessons from
Antonio Vitali. He produced a great sensation in that city, and became
attached to the Court, through the influence of the Grand Duchess.
Returning to Paris in 1719, he made some excellent pupils, among others
Guignon, and probably Guillemain, who obtained a certain degree of
celebrity for some admirable sonatas for the Violin.

Of all Corelli’s pupils, the one who departed the most from his
master’s style, and by his daring arrived at most extraordinary
results, was Pietro Locatelli, justly celebrated as a violinist, born
at Bergamo in 1693. He could have received but few lessons from his
illustrious master, being scarcely sixteen years of age when Corelli
died. Bold and original, he invented new combinations in tuning the
Violin, in double notes, arpeggios, and harmonic sounds. The most
important work in which he put forth the result of his discoveries in
these various matters, bears the title of “Arte de nuova modulazione.”
The French editions of this work are entitled “Caprices énigmatiques.”
If Locatelli, who died in Holland in 1764, did not produce many pupils,
he had many imitators, Lolli, Fiorillo, and above all, Paganini, whose
talent was the most complete development of this model.

The Piedmontese school, founded by Somis, was destined to become the
most fruitful in first-class talent. Besides Leclair, his nephew
Schabran, or Chabran, became celebrated at Paris in 1751. Giardini,
a model of grace, and above all Pugnani, who, endowed with a highly
developed organisation, exercised a great influence upon the art, by
the grandeur of his executive style, the variety of his bowing, and the
improvements he introduced into the form of the concerto, as regards
the effect of solos. Having become the leader of the Piedmontese
school, Pugnani arrived at the zenith of his glory in maturing and
forming the purer, beautiful, and brilliant talent of Viotti, who
subsequently became both the model and despair of the violinists of
every country.

Contemporary with Pugnani, Gaviniès effected for the French school
at Paris what the Piedmontese violinist effected at Turin for the
Italian school. Mechanism of the bow, which renders every difficulty
easy, perfect intonation, imposing style, expression replete with
charm and feeling; such were the qualities which excited Viotti when
he heard Gaviniès, whom he called “le Tartini français.” The talent
of this artist was especially appreciated at its full value upon
various occasions at concerts of sacred music, where other violinists
of incontestable merit had performed. He bore away the palm after
contesting it with Pugnani, Domenico Ferrari, and John Stamitz.

The arrival of Viotti in Paris produced a sensation difficult to
describe. No performer had been heard who had attained so high a
degree of perfection--no artist had possessed so fine a tone, such
sustained elegance, such fire, and a style so varied. The fancy which
was developed in his concertos increased the delight he produced in his
auditory; his compositions for the Violin were as superior to those
which had been previously heard as his execution surpassed that of all
his predecessors and rivals. When this beautiful music became known,
the rage for the concertos of Jarnowick became extinct, and the French
school adopted more enlarged views. Viotti made few pupils; but there
was one who alone was worth an entire school: Rode, who possessed all
the brilliant qualifications of his master. There are few alive at the
present day who have heard this artist in his prime, when he played at
the concerts in the Rue Feydeau and at the Opera; but those artists who
did will never forget the model of perfection which entranced them. It
is an interesting remark, which I deem it a duty to make, that from
Corelli to Rode there is no hiatus in the school--for Corelli was the
master of Somis, Somis of Pugnani, Pugnani of Viotti, and Viotti of

When the talent of Rode was at its zenith, two other violinists
rendered the French school illustrious. First, Rodolphe Kreutzer, the
son of one of the Court musicians, who was born at Versailles in 1766,
and was a pupil of Anthony Stamitz, a German violinist, who founded
a school. Kreutzer at first adopted the narrow style of his master;
but, under the guidance of Gaviniès, and after hearing Viotti, his
method became broader, more brilliant, and bold beyond conception. His
tone was full rather than mellow; and his manner of expression less
remarkable than his mastery of difficulties. His great quality was
originality, being no follower of any system, and obeying only the
impulsion of his own energetic sensibility. Kreutzer founded a school,
and made many pupils, who have taken advantage of his qualities, and
who generally, are remarked for their brilliancy of execution.

Baillot, of whom I have still to speak, was not only a great violinist
by the readiest and most varied mechanism imaginable, but he was a
poet by his exquisite feeling for the beauties of music and his ready
conception of the style necessary for imparting the true character
of each composition. Pollani, pupil of Nardini, was one of Baillot’s
masters; but the immense natural talent of Baillot formed the rich
basis of his own fancy; a great solo performer, he never went to the
extent of his vast capabilities, if the work he was to interpret failed
to awaken his appreciation. At the Opera, where he was engaged to play
the solos for dancing, he was only the shadow of himself; but when at
annual meetings for the performance of quartetts and quintetts, with
the genius of Boccherini, of Haydn, of Mozart, and of Beethoven, his
enthusiasm was aroused; he became sublime and unequalled for his varied
accentuation, the various shadings of expression, and the poetry of his
ideas. His bow was magical; and every note under his fingers became an
eloquent inspiration. Baillot was not only a great violinist--he was a
great professor. The number of excellent violinists who were his pupils
is considerable. His school produced Habeneck and Mazas--both of whom
were eminent artists. Having become professor at the Conservatory of
Paris, and the successor of his master, Habeneck produced some clever
pupils, at the head of whom stands M. Alard, the present chief of the
French school.

Lafont, too, one of the bright glories of the French school of
violinists, was, at first, the pupil of Kreutzer. Dissatisfied with the
style of his master, which did not sympathise with his own, he joined
the school of Rode, which seemed formed for the development of his own
qualities, combining grace, purity, elegance, and charm--qualities
which, subsequently, with study, rendered him a perfect master of his
art. The perfection of his intonation was so certain--the style of his
bowing so seductive--his taste so exquisite in his ornament--that, if
the sentiment of grandeur left anything to be desired, it was scarcely
perceptible, it was lost in the rapture created by his grace and

A new school has been formed. I allude to the Belgian school for the
Violin, which numbers a nation of heroes, the chiefs of whom are De
Bériot and Vieuxtemps; but, convinced that the history of one’s friends
is as difficult to write as that of one’s enemies, I shall leave to
future historians the agreeable task of handing down to posterity the
names of these glories of their country.

Germany has produced several schools of violinists, whose principal
qualities have been perfect intonation and neat execution; but which
in the eighteenth century, especially, wanted a more powerful tone
and broadness of execution. The prodigies invented by Walther in the
seventeenth century, seem not to have left any traces. Italy and
Bohemia were the cradles of two schools of German violinists, from
whence the others proceeded.

Corelli, who disseminated everywhere the effects of his powerful
influence, was first violinist in the chapel of the Margrave of
Anspach, in 1699, when Pisendel, then choir-boy, became his pupil,
and made such progress under his guidance, that he became first
violinist of the chapel in 1702. This Pisendel, having become an
eminent violinist, was attached to the Court of Saxony as master of
the concerts, and opened, at Dresden, a school for the Violin. All the
traditions of his master were transmitted to his pupils, but with the
mannerism that was in vogue at the Court of Dresden. It was here the
talent of Johann Gottlieb Graun, brother of the celebrated composer
of that name, and master of the concerts of Frederick the Great, King
of Prussia, was formed. Graun possessed sterling talent, of which he
afforded many proofs, both by the pupils he made and by twenty-nine
concertos for the Violin in manuscript, some of which I have seen, and
which evince a remarkable degree of cleverness. In his youth, when
he left the school of Pisendel, he went to Italy, and there received
lessons from Tartini, whose style he adopted.

The school for the Violin founded in Bohemia, commenced by Konieseck of
Prague. Konieseck is only known as having been the master of Francis
Benda, a great artist, born at Althenatka, in Bohemia, the 23rd of
November, 1709. His first master was a blind Jew, of the name of
Lœbel, a very eminent violinist. He subsequently became the pupil of
Konieseck, and acquired his brilliant style, though deficient in tone,
which he transmitted to all his pupils. The school of Benda, from which
proceeded his two sons, Ramnitz, Rust, Matthes, and several others, was
celebrated for a long period in Germany. From this school came most of
the Saxon and Prussian violinists. Benda, after the death of Graun,
succeeded him as master of the concerts at the Court of Prussia in
1772, and died at Potsdam in 1786.

John Charles Stamitz, a remarkable violinist, and distinguished
composer, emanated from Bohemia; he was born in 1719, his Violin master
was a monk of the Abbey of Reichenau, the Father Czernohorsky. Being
in the service of the Palatinate Elector in 1745, Stamitz became
the founder of the celebrated school of Mannheim, which produced the
greater number of the German violinists of later days. The concertos
of Stamitz, and a duet for one Violin, several times published,
would alone suffice to prove the great capabilities of this artist:
even did his pupils not bear evidence in favour of this judgment.
Among his pupils were his two sons, Charles and Anthony, Canabich,
Foerster, and several others. Christian Canabich succeeded his master;
and his pupils were William Cramer, Danner, Ignace Fraenzel, all of
whom were distinguished artists, but of different styles. Cramer and
Danner possessed broadness in the style of bowing, but Fraenzel was a
graceful and elegant performer, though his tone was somewhat thin. A
pupil of Danner, John Frederick Eck, born at Mannheim in 1766, became
a brilliant violinist of this school. This artist, director of the
concerts of the Court of Munich, was the master of Spohr--at least,
as far as talent can be formed, until individual organisation and
meditation receive the stamp of personality. Louis Spohr has founded a
Violin school in Germany, on a more extended and more vigorous scale
than those of his predecessors. When Paganini heard him at Venice, he
spoke of him in unqualified terms of approbation. This worthy artist
has formed many pupils, who occupy most honourable positions in the
large cities, and he has exposed the principles of his school in an
extensive work, published by Haslinger, of Vienna, and subsequently
translated into French and English.



Nicolo Paganini.

Genius--talent, whatever its extent--cannot always count upon
popularity. Susceptibility of the highest conceptions of the most
sublime creations, frequently fail in securing the attention of the
multitude. How is this most coveted point to be attained? It would be
difficult to arrive at any precise conclusion, from the fact that it
applies to matters totally differing from each other; it is, however,
perhaps possible to define the aggregation of qualities required to
move the public in masses, by calling it “sympathetic wonderment.”
Fortunate boldness is its characteristic mark; originality its absolute
condition. The most renowned popularities of the nineteenth century
have each differed in their specialty,--Napoleon Bonaparte, Rossini,
and Paganini. Many other names, doubtless, recall talents of the finest
order, and personalities of the highest value; yet, notwithstanding
their having been duly appreciated by the intelligent and enlightened
classes, they have not called forth those outbursts of enthusiasm
which have been manifested towards others during an entire generation.
The truly popular name appears surrounded by its prestige, even to
the lowest degrees of the social scale; such was the case with the
prodigious artist who is the object of this notice.

Nicolo Paganini, the most extraordinary--the most renowned violinist
of the nineteenth century--was born on February the 18th, 1784. His
father, Antonio Paganini, a commercial broker, or simply a broker’s
clerk, according to some biographers, was passionately fond of music,
and played upon the mandoline. His penetration soon discovered the
aptitude of his son for this art. He resolved that study should
develope it. His excessive severity would have probably led to results
contrary to those he expected, had not the younger Paganini been
endowed with the firm determination of becoming an artist. From the
age of six years he was a musician, and played the Violin. The lessons
he received from his father, as may be presumed, were not given in the
most gentle manner. The ill-treatment to which he was subjected during
this period of his youth, appears to have exercised a fatal influence
upon his nervous and delicate constitution. From his first attempts
he was imbued with the disposition to execute feats of strength and
agility upon his instrument. His instinct urged him to attempt the most
extraordinary things; his precocious skill exciting the astonishment of
his young friends. His confidence in the future was not to be shaken,
from the fact of his mother saying to him one day, “My son, you will be
a great musician. An angel, radiant with beauty, appeared to me during
the night, and, addressing me, spoke thus: ‘If thou wouldst proffer a
wish, it shall be accomplished.’ I asked that you should become the
greatest of all violinists, and the angel promised the fulfilment of my

His father’s lessons soon became useless, and Servetto, a musician
of the theatre, at Genoa, became his teacher; but even he was not
possessed of sufficient ability to be of benefit to this predestined
artist. Paganini received his instructions for a short period only, and
he was placed under Giacomo Costa, director of music, and principal
violinist to the churches of Genoa, under whose care he progressed
rapidly. He had now attained his eighth year, when he wrote his first
sonata, which he unfortunately took no care of, and has been lost among
many other of his productions. His countryman, Gnecco, a distinguished
composer, encouraged the visits of the boy, and tendered counsel
which doubtless aided him materially in his progress. Costa only gave
him lessons for six months, during which period he obliged his pupil
to play in the churches. But the master’s instructions were not at
all satisfactory to the pupil, who had already conceived a method of
fingering and bowing.

Having reached his ninth year, the young _virtuoso_ appeared in
public, for the first time, in a concert at the large theatre of his
native town, given by the excellent soprano Marchesi, with the vocalist
Albertinatti. These two artists sang subsequently at a concert for
Paganini’s benefit, and in both these instances this extraordinary
child played variations of his own composition on the French air,
“la Carmagnole,” amid the frenzied acclamations of an enthusiastic
audience. About this period of his life the father was advised, by
judicious friends, to place the boy under good masters of the Violin
and composition; and he shortly after took him to Parma, where
Alexandro Rolla then resided, so celebrated for his performance, as
conductor of the orchestra, and as a composer. Paganini was now twelve
years of age. The following anecdote, related by M. Schottky, and which
Paganini published in a Vienna journal, furnishes interesting details
of the master’s first interview with the young artist:--“On arriving
at Rolla’s house, he said, we found him ill, and in bed. His wife
conducted us into a room adjoining the one where the sick man lay, in
order to concert with her husband, who, it appeared, was not at all
disposed to receive us. Perceiving upon the table of the chamber into
which we were ushered a Violin, and the last concerto of Rolla, I took
up the Violin and played the piece at first sight. Surprised at what
he heard, the composer inquired the name of the _virtuoso_ he had just
heard. When he heard it was only a mere lad, he would not give credence
to the fact unless by ocular demonstration. Thus satisfied, he told
me, that he could teach me nothing, and recommended me to take lessons
in composition from Paër.” The evident desire evinced by Paganini to
refute the supposition of his having received lessons from Rolla, is a
singularity difficult to account for. Gervasoni, who knew him at Parma
at this period, affirms[C] that he was the pupil of Rolla for several
months. However, it was not Paër, then in Germany, who taught Paganini
harmony and counterpoint, but Ghiretti, who had directed the studies
of Paër himself. During six months this precocious artist received
three lessons weekly, and specially applied himself to the study of
instrumentation. Even now Paganini was occupied in discovering new
effects on his instrument. Frequent discussions took place between him
and Rolla on the innovations which the young artist contemplated, and
which he could, at this period, only execute imperfectly, whilst the
severe taste of his master deprecated these bold attempts, except for
the sake of occasional effects. It was, however, only after his return
to Genoa, that Paganini wrote his first compositions for the Violin.
This music was so difficult that he was obliged to study it himself
with increasing perseverance, and to make constant efforts to solve
problems unknown to all other violinists. He was seen to have tried the
same passage in a thousand different ways during ten or twelve hours,
and to be completely overwhelmed with fatigue at the end of the day.
It is by this unexampled perseverance that he overcame difficulties
which were considered insurmountable by contemporary artists, when he
published a specimen in the shape of a collection of studies.

Quitting Parma, at the commencement of 1797, Paganini made his first
professional tour with his father through all the principal towns in
Lombardy, and commenced a reputation which increased daily from that
period. On his return to Genoa, and after having, in solitude, made
the efforts necessary for the development of his talent, he began to
feel the weight of the chain by which he was held by his father, and
determined to release himself from the ill-treatment to which he was
still subjected under the paternal roof. His artistic soul revolted
at this degrading slavery, and felt that some respect was due to him.
A favourable opportunity alone was required to execute his design.
This soon presented itself. The fête of St. Martin was celebrated
annually at Lucca by a musical festival, to which persons flocked from
every part of Italy. As this period approached, Paganini entreated
his father to permit him to attend it, accompanied by his elder
brother. His demand was at first met with a peremptory refusal; but
the solicitations of the son, and the prayers of the mother, finally
prevailed, and the heart of the young artist, at liberty for the first
time, bounded with joy and he set out agitated by dreams of success
and happiness. At Lucca he was received with enthusiasm. Encouraged by
this propitious débût, he visited Pisa, and some other towns, in all of
which his success was unequivocal. The year 1799 had just commenced,
and Paganini had not attained his fifteenth year. This is not the age
of prudence. His moral education had been grossly neglected, and the
severity which assailed his more youthful years, was not calculated to
awaken him to the dangers of a life of freedom. Freed from restraint,
and relishing the delights of his new-born independence, he formed
connections with other artists, whose sole abilities seemed to consist
in encouraging a taste for gambling in young men of family and means,
and turning the tables upon them to their own advantage. Paganini, in
this manner, frequently lost the produce of several concerts in one
night, and was consequently often in a state of great embarrassment.
His talent soon procured fresh resources, and time passed gaily enough,
alternately between good and bad fortune. He was frequently reduced, by
distress, to part with his Violin. In this condition he found himself
at Leghorn, and was indebted to the kindness of a French merchant,
(M. Livron), a distinguished amateur, for the loan of a Violin, an
excellent Guarnieri. When the concert had concluded, Paganini brought
it back to its owner, when this gentleman exclaimed, “Never will I
profane strings which your fingers have touched; that instrument is
now yours.” This is the Violin Paganini afterwards used in all his
concerts. A similar event occurred to him at Parma, but under different
circumstances. Pasini, an eminent painter, and an excellent amateur
performer on the Violin, had disbelieved the prodigious faculty imputed
to Paganini, of playing the most difficult music at first sight, as
well as if he had maturely studied it. He brought him a manuscript
concerto, containing the most difficult passages, imagined almost
by every performer as insurmountable, and placing in his hands an
excellent instrument of Stradiuari, added, “This instrument shall be
yours, if you can play, in a masterly manner, that concerto at first
sight.” “If that is the case,” replied Paganini, “you may bid adieu to
it,” and he forthwith, by his exquisite performance of the piece, threw
Pasini into extatic admiration.

Adventures of every kind characterise this period of Paganini’s early
days; the enthusiasm of art, love, and gambling, divided his time,
despite the warnings of a delicate constitution, which proclaimed the
necessity of great care. Heedless of everything, he continued his
career of dissipation, until the prostration of all his faculties
forced a respite. He would then lie up for several weeks, in a state
of absolute repose, until, with refreshed energies, he recommenced his
artistic career and wandering life. Unexpected resources occasionally
relieved him from positive poverty. In this position, at seventeen
years of age, being at Leghorn, in 1801, he became acquainted with a
wealthy Swedish amateur, whose favourite instrument was the bassoon.
Complaining that he could meet with no music for his instrument,
sufficiently difficult for his talent, Paganini provided him with
compositions almost impracticable, for which he was richly rewarded.
It was to be feared that this dissolute life would ultimately deprive
the world of his marvellous talent, when an unforeseen and important
circumstance, related by himself, ended his fatal passion for gambling.

“I shall never forget,” he said, “that I one day, placed myself in
a position which was to decide my future. The Prince of ---- had,
for some time, coveted the possession of my Violin--the only one I
possessed at that period, and which I still have. He, on one particular
occasion, was extremely anxious that I should mention the sum for which
I would dispose of it; but not wishing to part with my instrument, I
declared I would not sell it for 250 gold napoleons. Some time after
the Prince said to me that I was, doubtless, only speaking in jest
in asking such a sum, but that he would be willing to give me 2,000
francs. I was, at this moment, in the greatest want of money to meet a
debt of honour I had incurred at play, and was almost tempted to accept
the proffered amount, when I received an invitation to a party that
evening at a friend’s house. All my capital consisted of thirty francs,
as I had disposed of all my jewels, watch, rings, and brooches, &c. I
resolved on risking this last resource; and, if fortune proved fickle,
to sell my Violin to the Prince and to proceed to St. Petersburg,
without instrument or luggage, with the view of re-establishing my
affairs; my thirty francs were reduced to three, and I fancied myself
on the road to Russia, when suddenly my fortune took a sudden turn;
and, with the small remains of my capital I won 160 francs. This amount
saved my Violin, and completely set me up. From that day I abjured
gambling--to which I had sacrificed part of my youth--convinced that a
gamester is an object of contempt to all well-regulated minds.”

Although he was still in the prime of youth, Paganini knew of nothing
but success and profit, when, during one of those hallucinations to
which all great artists are subject, the Violin lost its attractions
in his eyes. A lady of rank having fallen desperately in love with
him, and the feeling being reciprocated, he withdrew with her to an
estate she possessed in Tuscany.[D] This lady played the Guitar, and
Paganini imbibed a taste for that instrument, and applied himself as
sedulously to its practice as he had formerly done with the Violin. He
soon discovered new resources, which he imparted to his friend; and
during a period of three years, he devoted all the energies of his
mind to its study, and to agricultural pursuits, for which the lady’s
estate afforded him ample opportunities. It was at this period he wrote
his two sonatas for Guitar and Violin, which form his second and third

Love cools with time in a castle as in a cottage. Paganini discovered
this; all his former penchant for the Violin returned, and he decided
on resuming his travels. On his return to Genoa, in 1804, he occupied
himself solely with composition, and wrote here his fourth work which
consists of four grand quartetts for Violin, Viol, Guitar, and
Violoncello; and bravura variations for Violin, on an original theme,
with Guitar accompaniment, which forms his fifth work. It appears too,
that at this period he gave instruction on the Violin to Catarina
Calcagno,[E] born at Genoa, in 1797, who, at the age of fifteen,
astounded Italy by the boldness of her style. All traces of her seem
lost after 1816. Towards the middle of 1805, Paganini left Genoa, to
undertake a new tour in Italy. The first town he visited was Lucca,
the scene of his first successes. Here he again created so great a
sensation by a concerto he performed at a nocturnal festival in a
convent chapel, that the monks were obliged to leave their stalls, in
order to repress the applause which burst forth despite the sanctity
of the place. He was then twenty-one years of age. The principality of
Lucca and Piombino had been organised in the month of March, of the
same year, in favour of the Princess Eliza, sister of Napoleon, and the
wife of Prince Bacciochi. The Court had fixed its residence in the town
of Lucca. The great reputation of the violinist induced the Princess to
offer him the posts of director of her private music, and conductor of
the opera orchestra. Notwithstanding his propensity for independence of
action, and although the emoluments were scanty, the position pleased
him, and he accepted it. The Prince Bacciochi received instruction from
him on the Violin. The Princess, who had appreciated the originality of
his talent, induced him to extend his discoveries of novel effects upon
the instrument. To convince him of the interest he had inspired her
with, she granted him the grade of captain in the royal gendarmerie,
so that he might be admitted with his brilliant costume to all the
great Court receptions. Paganini added many novelties to those which
characterised his talent. Thus, seeking to vary the effect of his
instrument at the Court concerts, where it was his duty to play, he
removed the second and third strings, and composed a dialogue for the
first and fourth strings. He has related this circumstance himself
nearly in these terms:--

“At Lucca I directed the orchestra when the reigning family honoured
the opera with their presence. I was often called upon to play at
Court: and then, I organised fortnightly concerts. The Princess Eliza
always withdrew before the termination, as my harmonic sounds irritated
her nerves. A lady, whom I had long loved without having avowed my
passion, attended the concerts with great regularity. I fancied I
perceived that I was the object of her assiduous visits. Insensibly our
mutual passion increased; but important motives rendered prudence and
mystery necessary; our love in consequence became more violent. I had
promised her, on one occasion, that, at the following concert, I would
introduce a musical piece which should bear allusion to our relative
positions; and I announced to the Court a novelty under the title
of “Scène amoureuse.” Curiosity rose to the highest pitch; but the
surprise of all present at Court was extreme, when I entered the saloon
with a Violin with only two strings. I had only retained the first and
the fourth. The former was to express the sentiments of a young girl,
the other was to express the passionate language of a lover. I had
composed a kind of dialogue, in which the most tender accents followed
the outbursts of jealousy. At one time, chords representing most tender
appeals, at another, plaintive reproaches; cries of joy and anger,
felicity and pain. Then followed the reconciliation; and the lovers,
more persuaded than ever, executed a _pas de deux_, which terminated in
a brilliant coda. This novelty was eminently successful. I do not speak
of the languishing looks which the goddess of my thoughts darted at me.
The Princess Eliza lauded me to the skies; and said to me in the most
gracious manner possible, ‘You have just performed impossibilities;
would not a single string suffice for your talent?’ I promised to make
the attempt. The idea delighted me; and, some weeks after, I composed
my military sonata, entitled “Napoleon,” which I performed on the 25th
of August, before a numerous and brilliant Court. Its success far
surpassed my expectations. My predilection for the G string dates from
this period. All I wrote for this string was received with enthusiasm,
and I daily acquired greater facility upon it: hence I obtained the
mastery of it, which you know, and should no longer surprise you.”

In the summer of 1808, Paganini obtained leave to travel, and quitted
Lucca, never more to return. As the sister of Napoleon had become Grand
Duchess of Tuscany, she fixed her residence at Florence, with all
her Court, where the great artist retained his position.[F] He went
to Leghorn, where, seven years previously, he had met with so much
success. Here he was not received with the warmth extended to him on
his former visit; but his talent soon overcame the coldness evinced
towards him. He has related, with much humour, a series of tribulations
which happened to him upon the occasion of his first concert there.
“A nail,” he said, “had run into my heel, and I came on limping, at
which the audience laughed. At the moment I was about to commence my
concerto, the candles of my desk fell out. (Another laugh.) At the
end of the first few bars of the solo, my first string broke, which
increased the hilarity of the audience, but I played the piece on
the three strings--and the grins quickly changed into acclamations
of applause.” The broken string frequently occurred afterwards; and
Paganini has been accused of using it as a means of success, having
previously practised upon the three strings, pieces which appear to
require the use of the first also.

From Leghorn he went to Turin, where the Princess Pauline Borghese,
sister of Napoleon, the Prince, her husband, and suite, were
sojourning. Blangini, then attached to the service of the Princess
as director of music (1808 or 1809), there heard the illustrious
violinist at several concerts; and spoke of him to me, on his return
to Paris, with unbounded admiration. It was at Turin that Paganini
was first attacked with internal inflammation, which subsequently so
debilitated his health, as frequently to cause long interruptions to
his travels, and his series of concerts. He was nearly convalescent,
when he was recalled to the Court of Florence, in the month of October,
1809, for the concerts which were to be given on the occasion of peace
between France and Austria. It was at this period that my friend, the
celebrated sculptor, Bartolini, executed a bust of Paganini, which
I saw in his studio at Florence, in 1841. An excellent work by M.
Conestabile, which has just appeared, and which only reached me a few
days ago,[G] furnishes me with information as to the manner Paganini
was employed in 1810. It will be found (p. 58) that he must have left
Florence about December, 1809, to visit Romagna and Lombardy; that he
gave concerts at the old theatre of Cesena; that he afterwards produced
an extraordinary sensation at a concert given at Rimini, the 22nd of
January, 1810. This information was extracted by M. Conestabile, from
manuscript memoirs by M. Giangi, an amateur composer, relating to the
town of Rimini. It is probable he afterwards visited the other cities
of Central Italy, Ravenna, Forli, Imola, and Faenza; but this is not
certain. It appears also about the same period he met with an adventure
at Ferrara that nearly cost him his life. He had gone to Bologna with
a friend, and purposed giving some concerts there. Arrangements were
already made with the manager, and rehearsals appointed, when, at the
moment the rehearsal was about to commence, Marcolini, who was to
sing at the concert, capriciously refused to do so. Disconcerted by
this _contretemps_, Paganini sought the aid of Madame Pallerini, the
principal dancer of the theatre, but who possessed a most agreeable
voice, which she only cultivated for herself and her friends.
Vanquished by the solicitations of the great violinist, she consented
to sing at the concert; but when she presented herself to the public,
fear overpowered her--she sang with timidity--and when she retired,
encouraged by the kind applause which rewarded her efforts, a piercing
hiss was heard. Maddened with rage, Paganini vowed to avenge this
outrage at the end of the concert. As he was about to commence his last
solo, he announced to the public that he purposed imitating the notes
and cries of various animals. After having imitated the chirping of
certain birds, cock-crowing, the mewing of a cat, and the barking of
a dog, he advanced to the footlights, and while imitating the braying
of an ass, he called out “This for the men who hissed” (Questo è
per quelli che han fischiato!) He was convinced this repartee would
excite laughter, and the hissers be hooted; but the pit rose to a
man, vociferating, and rushing forward to the orchestra, which they
literally scaled. Paganini had only time to escape, by hasty flight,
the dangers that menaced him. It was only after he was safely at home,
that he learned the cause of this fearful tumult. He was told that the
peasantry in the suburbs of Ferrara entertain peculiar ill feelings
towards the residents of that town--considering them as a community of
idiots, and compare them to asses. Hence, any resident of the suburb,
if questioned from whence he came, never admits it is from Ferrara,
but vociferates a vigorous hee-haw. The audience present at Paganini’s
concert considered this a personal allusion to themselves; the result
was, that the authorities withdrew their permission and prohibited the
continuation of his concerts. Since then, Paganini was never heard
again at Ferrara.

Gervasoni relates[H] that on the 16th of August, 1811, Paganini gave
a concert at Parma, at which he produced an immense sensation, both
upon artists and amateurs, particularly in his variations on the fourth
string. It would appear that from Parma he returned to his duties at
the Court of Florence. Here he probably remained during the year 1812,
for no information of him in other places, during this period, is met
with. He was, there can be little doubt, obliged to return occasionally
to the capital of Tuscany to fulfil his duties. Here, about the end of
1812, or the commencement of 1813, occurred the adventure which obliged
him suddenly to quit the service of the Grand Duchess, and leave the
town. This adventure had been certified to M. Conestabile by ocular
witnesses, in nearly the following terms:--At a grand Court gala, where
a concert preceded a ball, Paganini, who directed the former, and was
to have performed, appeared in the orchestra in his uniform of captain
of the royal gendarmerie. The Princess, as soon as she perceived this,
sent her commands that the uniform was to be replaced by evening
dress. He replied that his commission allowed him to wear the uniform,
and refused to change it. The command was repeated during the concert
and again met with refusal; and to prove that he defied the orders of
the Grand Duchess, he appeared at the ball in his uniform. Moreover, in
order to show that he did not care what might be thought of the insult
proffered to him, he walked up and down the room after the ball had
commenced. Nevertheless, convinced that although reason and right were
both in his favour, absolutism prevailed at Court, and his defiance
might endanger his liberty, he quitted Florence during the night, and
directed his steps towards Lombardy. The most tempting offers, and the
promise of the Grand Duchess’s leniency, proved unavailing to induce
him to return.[I] Delighted at finding himself his own master, he
determined never again to accept a fixed position, however tempting the

Being at Milan in the spring of 1813, he witnessed, at the Theatre La
Scala, the ballet of “Il Noce di Benevento” by Virgano, the music of
which was by Süssmayer.[J] It was from this ballet that Paganini took
the theme of his celebrated variations “le Streghe,” (the Witches),
from the air being that to which the witches appeared. While busied
with these variations, and making arrangements for his concerts, he was
again seized with a return of his former malady, and several months
elapsed before he could appear in public. It was only on the 29th of
October following he was enabled to give his first concert, when he
excited a sensation which the journals of Italy and Germany made known
to the whole world.

Paganini always evinced an extraordinary predilection for Milan, to
which city he was much attached. Not only did he reside there the
greater part of 1813, with the exception of his visit to Genoa, but
also, until the month of September, 1814, visiting it three times
during five years, residing there for a long period, and giving
thirty-seven concerts. In 1813 he gave eleven, some at La Scala, and
others at the Theatre Carcano; and, after a repose of some months,
another series at the Theatre Rè, in 1814. In the month of October of
that year he went to Bologna, where he saw Rossini for the first time,
and commenced a friendship which became strengthened at Rome, in 1817,
and at Paris in 1831. Rossini produced his “Aureliano in Palmira,” in
December, 1813, at Milan, at which period Paganini was at Genoa, so
that these artists had never yet met each other until Rossini was about
leaving Bologna, to write his “Turco in Italia,” at Milan.

Up to the year 1828, Paganini had made three times the round of
Italy. In 1815 he returned to Romagna, and having given some concerts
there, stopped at Ancona. Here his malady returned to him for several
months, and he then proceeded to Genoa, about the commencement of
1816, while Lafont was giving concerts at Milan. Anxious to hear the
French violinist, he repaired thither, where a rivalry ensued, which
was much spoken of, and appreciated in various ways, according to the
bias of school and nationality. Lafont, who frequently related to me
the circumstances of this meeting, was perfectly convinced that he
was the victor. It is interesting to hear Paganini’s relation of this
circumstance of his life:--“Being at Genoa, in March, 1816, I heard
that Lafont was giving concerts at Milan, for which city I immediately
started, for the purpose of hearing him. His performance pleased me
exceedingly. A week afterwards I gave a concert at the Theatre La
Scala, to make myself known to him. The next day Lafont proposed we
should both perform on the same evening. I excused myself by saying
that such experiments were always impolitic, as the public invariably
looked upon such matters as duels, in which there was always a victim,
and that it would be so in this case; for as he was acknowledged the
best violinist in France, so the public indulgently considered me as
the best of Italian violinists. Lafont not looking at it in this
light, I was obliged to accept the challenge. I allowed him to regulate
the programme, which he did in the following manner:--We each in turn
played one of our own compositions, after which we played together the
“Symphonie concertante” of Kreutzer, for two Violins. In this I did not
deviate in the least from the author’s text, while we both were playing
our own parts; but in the solos I yielded to my own imagination, and
introduced several novelties, which seemed to annoy my adversary. Then
followed a Russian air, with variations, by Lafont, and I finished the
concert with my variations on “le Streghe.” Lafont probably surpassed
me in tone, but the applause which followed my efforts convinced me
I did not suffer by comparison.” Lafont, it cannot be denied, acted
imprudently under the circumstances, for although it may be admitted he
possessed more purely classical qualities, and was more in accordance
with French taste than Paganini, although his tone was fuller, and
more equal, yet, in original fancy, poetry of execution, and mastery
of difficulties, he could not place himself in juxtaposition with his
antagonist. In a concert, at the Conservatory of Paris, in 1816, the
palm would have been awarded to him, but, with an Italian public,
athirst for novelty and originality, his failure was certain.


_From “The Violin: its Famous Makers and their Imitators.” (By kind
permission of Mr. G. Hart.)_]

A similar circumstance occurred two years later, when Paganini
had returned to Placentia to give concerts. The Polish violinist,
Lipinski,[K] was then there (1818). He had sought Paganini without
success at Venice, Verona, and Milan, and had abandoned all hopes
of meeting him, when a concert bill was put into his hands, which
announced that they were then together in the same town. Paganini
gave six concerts in this town; and, at the sixth, played a concerted
symphony with Lipinski, which was much applauded. They frequently met
at each other’s residence and improvised together. Some time after,
Lipinski dedicated to him one of his works[L] as a tribute of respect;
but when they again met at Warsaw, in 1829, a journal, speaking
of a concert which the Polish violinist had just given, and lauding
his talent, took occasion to depreciate the ability of Paganini, and
to accuse the virtuoso of charlatanism. Other journals defended the
Genoese violinist, and undervalued the merit of Lipinski, who deemed it
a duty publicly to exculpate himself from the suspicion of having been
connected with the discourteous attack directed towards his illustrious
competitor. Paganini did not seem at all concerned about the matter,
but the intimacy of the two artists ceased.

From Milan, Paganini repaired to Venice, in the summer of 1816, where
he remained for upwards of a year, to restore his health, which had
for some time been in a declining state; he also gave some concerts.
This protracted sojourn at Venice is mentioned in the “Leipziger
Musikalische Zeitung,” of July the 23rd, 1817, by a correspondent, who
thus alludes to the subject:--

“The celebrated violinist, Paganini, has at last quitted Venice, where
he has been sojourning for more than twelve months, and has returned to
Genoa, his native town, taking Milan in his route.”

In the same year (1817) he arrived at Rome, and found Rossini there
busy in producing his “Cenerentola.” Several concerts which he gave
there during the Carnival excited the greatest enthusiasm. He also
frequently played at the palace of the Count de Kaunitz, ambassador of
Austria, where he met Count Metternich, who urgently pressed him to
visit Vienna. From this time Paganini formed the project of leaving
Italy to visit the principal cities of Germany and France; however,
the uncertain state of his health, which, at times, placed his life
in danger, prevented him from realising his project at this period.
Besides, he had not yet visited Naples and Sicily--and he had long
entertained a strong desire of doing so; however, it does not seem that
he visited, at this time, that portion of the Peninsula, for we hear of
him in Upper Italy, giving concerts at Verona, at Placentia, at Turin,
at Florence, and throughout Tuscany, during 1818, and a portion of
1819.[M] It was only in the latter year that he arrived at Naples. It
is a very remarkable circumstance that he appeared there in a manner
unworthy of his great name; for, instead of giving his first concerts
at the San Carlo, he modestly commenced at the theatre Il Fondo. It
is true that, at the period he arrived--namely in the middle of the
summer, the theatrical performances are more frequently given at the
Fondo than at San Carlo.

On his arrival at Naples, Paganini found several artists indisposed
towards him. They doubted the reality of the prodigies attributed to
him, and awaited a failure. To put his talent to the test, the young
composer, Danna, recently from the Conservatory, was engaged to write
a quartett, containing every species of difficulty, convinced that the
great violinist would not vanquish them. He was, therefore, invited
to a musical re-union, where he met the violinist Onorio de Vito, the
composer Danna, the violinist and director of music Festa, and the
violoncellist Ciandelli. The piece was immediately given to him to
play at first sight. Understanding the snare that was laid for him, he
merely glanced at it, and played it as if he had been familiar with it.
Amazed and confounded at what they had heard, the highest approbation
was awarded to him, and he was proclaimed a miracle.

It was during this sojourn at Naples, that Paganini met with one of the
most singular adventures of his extraordinary life. An alarming relapse
of his malady took place; and, thinking that any current of air was
injurious to him, he took an apartment in a part of the town called
Petrajo, below Sant Elmo; but meeting here that which he most sought
to avoid, and his health daily becoming worse, it was reported that he
was consumptive. At Naples, the opinion prevailed that consumption is
contagious. His landlord, alarmed at having in his house one who was
supposed to be dying of this malady, had the inhumanity to turn him out
into the street, with all he possessed. Fortunately, the violoncellist
Ciandelli, the friend of Paganini, happened to be passing, and,
incensed at this act of cruelty, which might have proved fatal to the
great artist, belaboured the barbarian unmercifully with a stick he
carried, and then had his friend conveyed to a comfortable lodging,
where every attention was paid to him. Paganini recovered sufficiently
to give concerts.

Having returned to Milan, in March, 1820, Paganini took part in
founding a society of musical amateurs, which adopted the name of “Gli
Orfei,” for the performance of the classical works of the old masters.
He conducted several of this society’s concerts who, in testimony
of gratitude and admiration, presented him with medals and crowns.
Paganini’s predilection for the capital of Lombardy detained him there
until December. He then went to Rome, and arrived while Rossini was
producing his “Matilda di Sabran,” at the Apollo Theatre. On the day
of the general rehearsal, the leader of the orchestra was seized with
apoplexy. This unexpected event was a source of great embarrassment
to the composer, inasmuch as the talent of the musicians was below
mediocrity. As soon as this circumstance reached Paganini, he flew to
his friend’s assistance, attended the general rehearsal, and led the
three first representations with an energy that struck the band with

In May, 1821, Paganini left Rome to return to Naples. Kandler met
him here during the summer. He gave concerts at the Fondo, and at
the Teatro Nuovo. This literary musician has given an account in the
“Morgenblatt” (1821, No. 290) of the extraordinary impression this
“Hercules of Violinists,” as he called him, made upon him. The account
is filled with expressions of unbounded admiration.

From Naples Paganini went to Palermo, and gave concerts, which
were but poorly attended, attributed by the correspondent of the
“Leipziger Musikalische Zeitung” to the indifference of the Sicilians
for instrumental music. His stay here was of short duration, for we
find him at Venice, then at Placentia, at the commencement of 1822.
In April of the same year he gave concerts at Milan, his return
being hailed with the warmest tokens of delight, and with a success
surpassing all his former visits. He was now seriously preoccupied
with his visit to Germany, as projected by Count Metternich; but
during an excursion to Pavia, he again fell seriously ill, in January,
1823, and his life was despaired of. He had scarcely recovered when
he proceeded to Turin, where a similar welcome and success awaited
him. His health was, however, extremely delicate, and the necessity of
repose so manifest, that he was obliged to return to his native air.
Some months of inaction and calm, passed at Genoa, renewed his health
and strength sufficiently to enable him to give concerts at the Theatre
Saint Augustin, to which his fellow-townsfolk flocked in crowds. These
concerts took place in the month of May, 1824, after which he repaired
to Milan. Here he played at La Scala, on the 12th of June of the same
year, and was received with acclamations which denoted the intense
interest his health had excited. Some days after, he returned to Genoa,
and gave two concerts, the first on the 30th of June, the second on the
7th of July following.

Paganini seemed to have recovered all his pristine health and strength,
for in the month of November in the same year his talent seemed to
be greater than ever at the concerts he gave at Venice. The title of
“Filarmonico,” which then followed his name on his concert bills, gave
rise to polemical discussions. Enemies, which great talent invariably
creates, pretended that the Genoese violinist sought to induce the
belief that he was a member of the Academy of Philharmonics of Bologna;
although such was not the case, his admirers replied that the Academy
would be honoured if Paganini condescended to become one. He terminated
the discussion by declaring that his assuming the addition to his name
was merely a declaration of his love for the art.

In January, 1825, Paganini gave two concerts at Trieste; thence he
proceeded to Naples, for the third time, and met with a renewal of
his former triumphs. In the summer he returned to Palermo, and this
time his success was unparalleled. The delicious climate of Sicily
was so agreeable to him that he remained here a year, giving here and
there occasional concerts, but enjoying long intervals of repose. This
lengthened sojourn in such a favourable climate restored him to better
health than he had experienced for a long period, and he returned to
his project of quitting Italy. However, before doing so, he wished
to return to several towns of which he retained so many delightful
reminiscences, and went to Trieste in the summer of 1826, then to
Venice, and finally to Rome, where he gave five concerts at the Theatre
Argentina, each of which was a separate ovation. On the 5th of April,
1827, Pope Leo the Twelfth decorated him with the Order of the Golden
Spur, in token of his admiration of his great talent. From Rome he went
to Florence, where he was detained by a disease in one of his legs,
which remained uncured for a very long period. He went to Milan, where
he was warmly received by his friends, and on the 2nd of March, 1828,
he quitted this town and proceeded to Vienna, where he arrived the 16th
of the same month.

On the 29th of March, the first concert of this great artist threw
the Viennese population into an indescribable paroxysm of enthusiasm.
“The first note he played on his Guarnerius (says M. Schilling, in
poetical style, in his “Universal-Lexicon der Musik”)--indeed, from
his first step into the room--his reputation was decided in Germany.
Acted upon as by an electric spark, a brilliant halo of glory appeared
to invest his whole person; he stood before us like a miraculous
apparition in the domain of art.” The Vienna journals were unlimited
in hyperbolical expressions of admiration; and the immense crowd whom
he had enchanted at this concert, unceasingly poured forth hymns of
praise to the glory of the enchanter, for two months. The most eminent
artists of the Austrian capital, Mayseder, Jansa, Slawich, Léon de
St. Lubin, Strebinger, Böhm, and others, all admitted his performance
to be incomparable. Other concerts given on the 13th, 16th, 18th, of
April, etc., created universal intoxication. Verses appeared in every
publication--medals were struck--the name of Paganini engrossing all;
and, as M. Schottky remarks, everything was à la Paganini. Fashion
assumed his name. Hats, dresses, gloves, shoes, etc., bore his name.
Cooks designated certain productions after him; and any extraordinary
stroke at billiards was compared to a bow movement of the artist. His
portrait appeared on snuff-boxes and cigar-cases; in fact, his bust
surmounted the walking-sticks of fashionable men. After a concert
given for the benefit of the poor, the magistrate of Vienna presented
to Paganini the large gold medal of St. Salvador, and the Emperor
conferred upon him the title of virtuoso of his private band.

A lengthened sojourn in the capital of Austria, and numerous concerts,
did not in the least diminish the impression Paganini had created on
his arrival. The same ovations were showered upon him in every town of
Germany. Prague, from certain traditionary opposition to the musical
opinions of Vienna, alone received him coldly; but Berlin so amply
avenged this indifference, that he exclaimed at his first concert,
“Here is my Vienna public!” After an uninterrupted series of triumphs,
during three years, in Austria, Bohemia, Saxony, Poland, Bavaria,
Prussia, and in the Rhenish provinces, after unceasing ovations of
Vienna, Dresden, Berlin, and Frankfort, the celebrated artist arrived
at Paris, and gave his first concert at the Opera, the 9th of March,
1831. His studies for the Violin, which had been published there for
some time--a species of enigma which had perplexed every violinist;
the European fame of the artist, his travels and triumphs, raised the
curiosity of the artists and the public. It is impossible to describe
the enthusiasm his first concert created--it was universal frenzy.
Tumultuous applause preceded and followed all his performances, the
audience rose _en masse_ to recall him after each, and nothing was
heard but general approbation and amazement. The same enthusiasm
prevailed during his entire stay in Paris.

Towards the middle of May he left this city, and proceeded to London,
where he was expected with the utmost impatience, but not with that
artistic and perceptive interest with which he had been received at
Paris. The high prices of admission charged for his concerts drew down
the reprobation of the English journals, as if the artist was not
privileged to put what price he pleased upon his talent, or that they
were perforce obliged to go and hear him. The concerts at London, at
which Paganini performed, and his professional tour through England,
Scotland, and Ireland, produced an immense amount of money; this was a
large fortune, to which he added considerably afterwards, during his
visits to France and Belgium. He has been reproached with having sold
himself to an English speculator for a certain time and a definite
sum: a system which many artists have since adopted, though it is
repugnant both to art and the dignity of the artist. Yet the great
care necessary for the organisation of concerts, the difficulties
encountered by an artist in England, certainly offer some apology for
its adoption. The scandalous manner in which the managements plunder
the artists--the toll claimed by the band, charitable institutions,
printers, advertisements, lighting, servants, &c., &c., &c., offer so
many interruptions to the calm serenity necessary for the display of
talent, that the artist can scarcely be blamed for ridding himself
of these annoyances by concluding a compact by which he is assured a
specific sum.[N]

After an absence of six years, Paganini again set foot on his native
soil. The wealth he had amassed in his European tour, placed him in a
position of great independence. He sought to place this to advantage,
yet was undecided what part of the Peninsula he would select as his
place of abode. His former predilection was for Tuscany; but, among
the various properties he purchased, was a charming country house
in the environs of Parma, called la Villa Gajona--here he decided
on residing. Various projects occupied him at this period, the
most important of which was the publication of his compositions--a
publication which was ardently desired by all violinists, under the
impression that they would arrive at the secret of his marvellous
talent. During his stay in London, M. Troupenas, one of the most
eminent publishers in Paris at that time, arrived there for the purpose
of purchasing the copyright of his manuscripts; yet, although M.
Troupenas was accustomed to pay large sums to celebrated authors, whose
works he published, particularly Rossini and Auber, he could not come
to terms with the great violinist. M. Troupenas has frequently told me
that the sum asked by Paganini for his manuscripts was so considerable,
that a continuous sale during ten years would not have reimbursed him.
Afterwards, at Brussels, Paganini told me he contemplated publishing
his works himself; but, not having yet abandoned giving concerts, he
conceived the singular idea of arranging his music for the Pianoforte.

On returning to Italy, where he was almost worshipped by his
countrymen, from the great triumphs he had obtained, and the honours
conferred on him by foreign potentates, he was received with the most
marked degree of respect. On the 14th of November, 1834, he gave a
concert at Placentia, for the benefit of the poor. The following 12th
of December, he played at the Court of Maria Louisa, Duchess of Parma,
from whom he received the imperial Order of St. George. During the year
1835, Paganini alternately resided at Genoa, Milan, and at his retreat
near Parma. The cholera, which was then raging at Genoa, gave rise to
the rumour that he had fallen a victim to the infection. This event was
announced in the public papers, in which there appeared necrological
notices; but, although his health was lamentably bad, he escaped the

In 1836, some speculators induced him to lend the aid of his name and
talent to establish a casino, of which music was the pretext, but
gambling the real object. This establishment, which was situated in
the most fashionable locality of Paris, was opened with considerable
splendour at the end of November, 1837, under the name of Casino
Paganini; but the Government refused to authorize its opening as a
gambling house, and the speculators were reduced to give concerts, the
proceeds of which were far exceeded by the expenses of the undertaking.
Under the necessity of meeting the engagement entered into for this
purpose, the great artist withdrew from his country house near Parma,
and proceeded by way of Piedmont. At Turin, together with the guitarist
Legnani, he gave a concert on the 9th of June, for the benefit of
the poor; and he then proceeded by way of Lyons, notwithstanding his
ill state of health, and arrived at Paris oppressed with fatigue and
suffering. The decline of his health was manifest; and his wasted
strength precluded the possibility of his playing at the Casino. As
the price of his painful journey to Paris, and the loss of his health,
a law suit was commenced against him, which he lost; the judges,
without having heard his defence, condemned him to pay 50,000f. to the
creditors of the speculation, and he was to be deprived of his liberty
until that amount was paid.

When this decision was pronounced, Paganini was dying--his malady,
which was phthisis of the larynx, had increased since the commencement
of 1839. The medical men advised him to proceed to Marseilles, the
climate of which they considered favourable to his health. He followed
their advice, and travelled by slow stages to the south. His great
energy struggled against the illness. In retirement at the house of
a friend, near the gates of the city, he still occupied himself with
his art, and alternated between the Violin and the Guitar. One day he
seemed to revive, and performed a quartett of Beethoven, his particular
favourite, with the greatest energy. Despite his extreme weakness,
he went, some few days after, to hear a requiem for male voices, by
Cherubini, finally, on the 21st of June, he attended in one of the
churches at Marseilles, to take part in a solemn mass by Beethoven.
However, the love of change, inherent in all valetudinarians, induced
him to return to Genoa by sea, fully impressed that the voyage would
recruit his health. Vain hope! In the commencement of October of the
same year, he wrote from his native city to M. Galafre, a painter, and
an esteemed friend of his: “Being in much worse health than I was at
Marseilles, I have resolved on passing the winter at Nice.” Thus he
believed he was flying from death, and death was pursuing him. Nice
was destined to be his last abode. The progress of his malady was
rapid--his voice became almost extinct, and dreadful fits of coughing,
which daily became more frequent, finally reduced him to a shadow. The
sinking of the features, a certain token of approaching death, was
visible in his face. An Italian writer has furnished us with a most
touching description of his last moments in the following terms:--

“On the last night of his existence, he appeared unusually tranquil. He
had slept a little; when he awoke, he requested that the curtains of
his bed should be drawn aside to contemplate the moon, which, at its
full, was advancing calmly in the immensity of the pure heavens. While
steadily gazing at this luminous orb, he again became drowsy, but the
murmuring of the neighbouring trees awakened in his breast that sweet
agitation which is the reality of the beautiful. At this solemn hour,
he seemed desirous to return to Nature all the soft sensations which he
was then possessed of; stretching forth his hands towards his enchanted
Violin--to the faithful companion of his travels--to the magician which
had robbed care of its stings--he sent to heaven, with its last sounds,
the last sigh of a life which had been all melody.”

The great artist expired the 27th of May, 1840, at the age of 56,
leaving to his only son, Achille--the fruit of his liaison with the
cantatrice, Antonia Bianchi, of Como--an immense fortune, and the
title of Baron, which had been conceded to him in Germany. All had
not ended with the man whose life was as extraordinary as his talent.
Whether from the effect of certain popular rumours, of which mention
will be made hereafter, or whether, from the fact of Paganini having
died without receiving the last rites of the Church, he had left doubts
as to his religion, his remains were refused interment in consecrated
ground by the Bishop of Nice, Monsignor Antonio Galvano. Vainly did
his son, his friends, and most of the artists of the city, solicit
permission to celebrate a solemn service for his eternal rest, on the
plea that, as in all cases of phthisis, the sufferer never believed
his end was approaching, but had died suddenly; the Bishop remained
inexorable, but proffered an authentic act of decease, with permission
to remove the body wheresoever they pleased. This was not accepted,
and the matter was brought before the tribunals. At Nice, a verdict
was returned in favour of the Bishop. Recourse was then had to Rome,
which remitted the Bishop’s decision, and charged the Bishop of Turin,
conjointly with two Canons of the Cathedral of Genoa, to institute an
inquiry with reference to the catholicity of Paganini. All this time
the body was lying in one of the rooms of the hospital at Nice; it was
afterwards removed by sea from the lazaretto of Villa Franca, near the
city, to a country spot named Polcevera, near Genoa, which belonged to
the family of the illustrious artist. It was rumoured that piteous and
extraordinary tones were heard there at night. To end these popular
reports, the young Baron Paganini resolved on defraying the expense
of a solemn service to the memory of his father, as Chevalier de St.
George, which was celebrated at Parma in the church of the Steccata,
belonging to that chivalrous order. After this ceremony, the friends of
the deceased obtained permission from the Bishop of Parma to bring the
body into the Duchy, to remove it to the Villa Gajona, and to inter it
in the village church. This funeral homage was rendered to the remains
of the celebrated man, in the month of May, 1845, but without pomp, in
conformity with the orders which had emanated from the Government.

By his will, made on the 27th of April, 1837, and opened on the 1st
of June, 1840, Paganini left to his son, legitimized by deeds of law,
a fortune estimated at two millions (£80,000 sterling), out of which
two legacies were to be paid, of fifty and sixty thousand francs, to
his two sisters, leaving to the mother of his son Achille an annuity
of 1,200 francs. Independently of his wealth, Paganini possessed a
collection of valuable instruments, among which was an incomparable
Stradiuari, estimated at upwards of 8,000 Austrian florins, a charming
Guarnieri of the smaller pattern, an excellent Amati, a Stradiuari
Bass, equally prized with his Violin of this master, and his large
Guarnieri, the only instrument which accompanied him in his travels,
and which he bequeathed to the town of Genoa, not being desirous that
any artist should possess it after him.

The frenzied admiration which Paganini’s prodigious talent excited
wherever he went, and the wealth he amassed, were painfully compensated
for, by the distressing state of his health during the greater part
of his life. His biographers attribute this delicate state to the
excesses of a stormy youth; but the immoderate use, during more than
twenty years, of the quack medicine of Le Roy, exerted an equally
fatal influence over his physical constitution. He rarely consulted
the faculty, and less frequently followed their advice. His confidence
in this favourite panacea was unshaken; he resorted to it on every
occasion, convinced that no ill with which humanity is afflicted, could
resist its action. The powerful agitation it excited was looked upon as
a salutary crisis. Its frequent use subjected the intestinal functions
to frequent disturbance, induced irritation, which became chronic, and
produced nervous attacks, which often almost deprived him of the power
of speech.

It was not only by his almost constant indisposition that Paganini
expiated his glory and his success, for the malignity of his enemies
pursued him for more than fifteen years with calumnious imputations,
which everywhere left their traces, and compromised his honour. Crime
was even imputed to him. The versions varied, as regards the deeds laid
to his charge; according to one, his liaisons, unworthy of his talent,
led him in his youth to the commission of highway robbery; others
attributed to him a maddening and vindictive jealousy in love affairs,
which frequently brought him to the verge of murder. Now his mistress,
now his rival, had fallen victims to his irrepressible fury. It was
even said, a long incarceration in prison had expiated his crime. The
long intervals which took place between his concerts, either for the
re-establishment of his health or for repose and meditation, favoured
these calumnious reports. The qualities even of his talent were but
weapons for his enemies, and it was said that the solitude of a prison,
and the impossibility of replacing the strings of his Violin which
had broken, led to his marvellous performance on the fourth, the only
one that remained upon his instrument. When Paganini visited Germany,
France, and England, envy pursued him, greedy of collecting odious
calumny, to oppose his success, as if it were decreed that genius and
talent should ever expiate the advantages which nature and study had
endowed them with. Paganini was frequently driven to defend himself
in the columns of the press; vainly had he appealed to the testimony
of the ambassadors of the foreign powers; vainly did he call upon his
enemies to cite, with precision, the facts and dates which they had
vaguely propagated; but no advantageous results were derived from this.
Paris, especially, was hostile to him, although that city contributed
principally to his fame. Apart from the real public, who entertain
neither hatred nor prejudice, and who yield to the pleasure which
talent provides for them, there is, in that city, a hunger-starved
population, which exists on the ill it does and the good it prevents.
This contemptible world speculated upon the celebrity of the artist,
and persuaded itself that he would purchase their silence. Lithographic
prints presented him a prisoner; journals attacked his morals, his
humanity, his integrity. These reiterated attacks--this pillory to
which he saw himself attached, as actor and as spectator--affected
him deeply. He confided his sorrows to me, and took counsel from me,
satisfying me perfectly of their unjust malice. I requested him to
furnish me with some notes to enable me to write a letter, which I
published with his signature, and was copied into most of the Paris
journals. The facts, related in that letter, possess so much interest
for the history of the most extraordinary man of our age, that I deem
it important to give it a place here. I conceive it, besides, a duty to
omit nothing that may avenge the calumnies which attached to one of the
most dazzling glories of the musical art:--

“SIR,--So many proofs of kindness have been showered upon me by the
French public, so much encouraging approbation has been bestowed upon
me, that I cannot avoid believing in the fame which it is said preceded
me in Paris, and that I fell not short of my reputation at my concerts.
But, if any doubt of that kind existed in my bosom, it would be removed
by the eagerness evinced by your artists to produce my likeness, and
by the great number of portraits of Paganini--faithful resemblances
or not--which cover the walls of your city; but, sir, it is not only
simple portraits that speculators of that nature stop at--for, while
walking yesterday on the Boulevard des Italiens, I saw in a shop, where
engravings are sold, a lithograph representing Paganini in prison.
‘Oh!’ I exclaimed, ‘here are some honest folks who, after the fashion
of Basile, make a profit out of certain calumnies which have pursued
me for the last fifteen years.’ However, I examined laughingly this
mystification, with all the details that the imagination of the artist
had conjured up, when I perceived that a large number of persons had
congregated around me, each of whom, confronting my face with that of
the young man represented in the lithograph, verified the change that
had taken place in my person since my detention. I then saw that it was
looked on in a serious light by those you call, I believe, louts, and
that the speculation was a good one. It struck me that, as everybody
must live, I might furnish the artists, who are kind enough to consider
me worthy of their attention, with some anecdotes--anecdotes from
which they could derive subjects of similar facetiæ to the subject in
question. It is to give them publicity, that I claim from your kindness
the insertion of this letter in the ‘Revue Musicale.’

“They have represented me in prison; but they are ignorant of the
cause of my incarceration; however, they know as much of that as I do
myself, and those who concocted the anecdote. There are many stories in
reference to this, which would supply them with as many subjects for
their pencils; for example, it is stated that, having found a rival in
my mistress’ apartment, I stabbed him honourably in the back, while he
was unable to defend himself. Others assert, that, in the madness of
jealousy, I slew my mistress; but they do not state how I effected my
bloody purpose. Some assert I used a dagger--others that, desirous of
witnessing her agony, I used poison. Each has settled it in accordance
with his own fancy. Why should not lithographers have the same
privilege? I will relate what occurred to me at Padua, nearly fifteen
years since. I had played at a concert with great success. The next
day, seated at the table d’hôte (I was the sixtieth) my entrance in the
room passed unobserved. One of the guests spoke of the great effect
I had produced the previous evening. His neighbour concurred in all
that was said, and added, ‘There is nothing surprising in Paganini’s
performance--he acquired his talent while confined in a dungeon
during eight years, having only his Violin to soften the rigours of
his confinement. He was condemned for having, coward-like, stabbed
one of my friends, who was his rival.’ As you may imagine, every one
was shocked by the enormity of my crime. I then addressed myself to
the person who was so well acquainted with my history, and requested
to know when and where this had taken place. Every eye was directed
towards me. Judge the surprise when they recognised the principal
actor in this tragical history! The narrator was embarrassed. It was
no longer his friend who had been assassinated. He heard--it had been
affirmed--he believed; but it was not improbable he had been deceived.
This is how an artist’s reputation is trifled with, because indolent
people will never comprehend that one may study at liberty as well as
under lock and key.

“A still more ridiculous report, at Vienna, tested the credulity of
some enthusiasts. I had played the variations entitled “Le Streghe”
(the Witches), and they produced some effect. One individual, who was
represented to me as of a sallow complexion, melancholy air, and bright
eye, affirmed that he saw nothing surprising in my performance, for he
had distinctly seen, while I was playing my variations, the devil at my
elbow directing my arm and guiding my bow. My resemblance to him was a
proof of my origin. He was clothed in red--had horns on his head--and
carried his tail between his legs. After so minute a description,
you will understand, sir, it was impossible to doubt the fact; hence,
many concluded they had discovered the secret of what they termed my
wonderful feats.

“My mind was disturbed for a long time by these reports, and I sought
every means to prove their absurdity. I remarked that from the age of
fourteen, I had continued to give concerts, consequently was always
before the public; that I had been engaged as leader of the orchestra,
and musical director to the Court of Lucca; that if it were true, I
had been detained eight years in prison, for having assassinated my
mistress or my rival, it must have taken place before my appearance
in public; that I must have had a mistress and a rival at seven years
of age. At Vienna I appealed to the ambassador of my country, who
declared he had known me for upwards of twenty years as an honest man,
and I succeeded in setting the calumny aside temporarily; but there
are always some remains, and I was not surprised to find them here.
How am I to act, sir? I see nothing but resignation, and submit to
the malignity which exerts itself at my expense. I deem it, however,
a duty, before I conclude, to communicate to you an anecdote, which
gave rise to the injurious reports propagated against me. A violinist,
of the name of Duranowski, who was at Milan in 1798, connected
himself with two persons of disreputable character, and was induced
to accompany them to a village, where they purposed assassinating the
priest, who was reported to be very rich. Fortunately, the heart of
one failed him at the moment of the dreadful deed, and he immediately
denounced his accomplices. The gendarmerie soon arrived on the spot,
and took Duranowski and his companion prisoners at the moment they
arrived at the priest’s house. They were condemned to the galleys for
twenty years, and thrown into a dungeon; but General Menou, after he
became Governor of Milan, restored Duranowski to liberty, after two
years’ detention. Will you credit it?--upon this groundwork they have
constructed my history. It was necessary that the violinist should
end in _i_, it was Paganini; the assassination became that of my
mistress or my rival; and I it was who was sent to prison,--with this
exception, that I was to discover there a new school for the Violin:
the irons were not adjudged against me, in order that my arms might be
at perfect liberty. Since these reports are persisted in, against all
probability, I must necessarily bear them with resignation. One hope
remains: it is, that after my death, calumny will abandon its prey, and
that those who have so cruelly avenged my triumphs, will leave my ashes
at rest.--Receive, &c.,


As just stated, Paganini was deeply mortified by these reports which
affected his honour. He wrote to the editors of the journals in Vienna;
and when Mr. Schottky, of Prague, formed the project of writing his
biography, to crush his calumniators, Paganini, who rejoiced at the
idea of such a publication, urged his friend to hasten his labours. He
wrote to him from Berlin:--“It is high time I should write to you. I
have no bad news to communicate, though I suffer slightly with my eyes,
which inconveniences me a good deal. You have probably seen the Dresden
journals. I met with all kinds of gratifications at Dresden, which the
extreme kindness of the royal family completed. It is true, I learned
that you had in one of your contributions promised my biography, but
I have not heard anything since. My curiosity is at its utmost pitch.
My relation, of whom I spoke to you, joined me at Dresden; he is also
extremely anxious. Do let us see some portion of your work. My honour
is in your keeping. How fortunate to have found an avenger, whose name
alone suffices to crush the basest calumnies! Your integrity and your
talents will drive my enemies to despair, and to you will remain the
gratification of having done a generous action.”

Nothing can be more honourable or more natural than the indignation
felt by Paganini at the calumnies which his success engendered; but it
would seem that he was deceived as to the means of silencing them: for
the publication of the chronological order of his life would easily
have demonstrated the absurdity of the reports propagated against
him. It is a fact, that until he was nearly fifteen years of age,
he remained under the paternal roof. Hence he proceeded to Lucca,
where he unfortunately formed an acquaintance with some disreputable
persons, who, taking advantage of his inexperience, robbed him of the
fruits of his industry, and drove him to Pisa, Arezzo, and Leghorn,
where he gave concerts to repair the inroads his losses had made, and
improve his pecuniary position. He was at this latter place in 1801,
and was then only seventeen years of age. This date is authentically
established by Gervasoni, who was his contemporary. Some months after,
his predilection for the Violin changed, and he took up the Guitar,
acquired a mastery over that instrument nearly equal to the Violin, and
wrote for it several distinguished compositions, which are still sought
for in Italy. In 1804, we find him at Genoa, giving instructions to the
young Catarina Calcagno, who became a most worthy pupil. The following
year, he enters the service at the Court of Lucca, remains in that town
until 1808, then undertakes a professional tour, arrives at Leghorn,
and plays at several concerts. In 1809, Blangini meets him at Turin.
In the same year he returns to Florence, where Bartolini executes
his bust. In 1810, he travels through the Romagna, and performs
particularly at Rimini, an inhabitant of which furnished an account to
M. Conestabile. It is afterwards that his adventure at Ferrara occurs;
and the 16th of August of the following year he gives concerts at
Parma, as confirmed by M. Gervasoni. Returning to Florence, he remains
there during 1812, where, at the beginning of 1813, the affair takes
place which drives him from Court. In the same year he gives thirteen
concerts at Milan. In 1814 he is at Genoa, his native place. He then
returns to Milan, gives eleven concerts there, and proceeds to Bologna,
where he meets Rossini. In 1815, he makes his second professional
tour in Romagna, and plays at Ancona, returning again to his native
place. In March, 1816, he goes to hear Lafont at Milan, receives the
challenge, gives concerts, and proceeds to Venice in the summer of the
same year. He remains there nearly a year, according to the report of
a correspondent of the “Leipziger Musikalische Zeitung,” from which
period until his death the public journals teem with accounts of his
brilliant successes. It is manifest, and beyond contradiction, that
during an existence constantly before the public, no period can be
found where he could have suffered a detention of eight years, or even
the time necessary for undergoing a criminal procedure. Paganini, with
the design of confounding his vilifiers, should have collected the
testimonies of those he had known previously to and during all this
period, and have published the chronological table which has been thus
sketched: the whole matter would then have been set at rest.

Human credulity is prone to feed on outrageous absurdities. Not only
was his dignity as a man attacked, for endeavours were ever made to
deprive him of this, and to grant him only a fantastic existence. The
almost insuperable difficulties he had overcome as a violinist, were
not the only motives which gave birth to the reports circulated. The
extraordinary expression of his face, his livid paleness, his dark and
penetrating eye, together with the sardonic smile which occasionally
played upon his lips, appeared to the vulgar, and to certain diseased
minds, unmistakable evidences of satanic origin. It has been seen by
his letter, which has been given _in extenso_, what he himself related
on that subject. But these ridiculous ideas were not entertained in
Germany only, for there are traces of them even in Italy, and they
probably had some effect upon the difficulties which attended his
obsequies. M. Amati, a distinguished writer, has furnished M. Schottky
with an anecdote which has reference to his acquaintance with Paganini
at Florence. It will be seen what impression the extraordinary aspect
of this singular being had upon nervous temperaments. Thus speaks the
narrator:--“Near the gate of Pitti, at Florence, there is a steep hill,
on the summit of which stands the ancient Fiesole, formerly the rival
of the capital of Tuscany, but divested of its former splendour. Here
the purest air is inhaled, and the beauty of the prospect produces
rather the effect of a dream than of reality. One beautiful May
morning, when the flowers and verdure lay smiling, kissed by the sun’s
rays, and all nature was beaming with youth, I ascended this hill by
its most rugged path, from whence the most beautiful view is obtained.
In front of me was a stranger, who, from time to time, stopped to
recover his breath, and admire the enchanting landscape, which met
his eye in every direction. Insensibly I approached him. Believing
himself alone, he spoke aloud, and accompanied his monologue with rapid
gesticulations and loud laughter. Suddenly he checked himself; his
lynx-like eye had perceived in the distance a charming object, which
soon after also attracted my attention. It was a young peasant girl,
who was approaching towards us slowly, carrying a basket of flowers.
She wore a straw hat; her hair, dark and lustrous as jet, played upon
her forehead; and the regularity of her handsome features was softened
by the mildness of her looks. With a beautifully formed hand she
constantly replaced her shining ringlets, which the refreshing zephyr
displaced. The stranger, astonished at so much beauty, fixed his ardent
looks upon her; when she had got near to him, she seemed transfixed
at the appearance of the individual who stood before her, grew pale,
and trembled. Her basket seemed ready to fall from her hands. She,
however, hurried on, and soon disappeared behind a projection. During
this period, I contemplated the stranger, whose eyes were fixed in the
direction the girl had taken. Never had I seen so extraordinary a face.
He merely cast upon me a passing glance, accompanied by a most singular
smile, and pursued his way.

“The next day, dark clouds, driven by the winds, rolled along like the
sea waves; scarcely was the sun visible, yet, despite the weather, I
went out, and having traversed the bridge Delle Grazie, outside the
gate which bears that name, I directed my steps to the right, towards
the hill, on the summit of which I already perceived the ruined castle
with its drawbridge. I approached the remains of this ancient edifice,
through the dilapidated walls of which the wind was whistling. Here
everything bore the impress of destruction. Here, contemplating the
fearful ravages of time, and listening to the mournful melodies of the
hurricane, the moanings of a human voice struck upon my ear, and made
me shudder. It seemed as if the voice proceeded from a subterranean
cavity near which I was standing. I rushed forward to its mouth, where
I found a man--pale and with haggard looks, lying upon the moss. I
recognised the stranger of the previous day; his searching look was
fixed upon me; I recoiled from it, and perceiving the stranger was in
no need of assistance, I withdrew.

“On the following evening, I was walking by the side of the Arno,
the moonlight flickering as it rose. The nightingale’s note, and the
warbling of birds of every kind preparing to roost, were saluting the
departing rays of day. Sounds of a totally different nature suddenly
intermingled with these harmonized melodies of nature. Attracted by
this exquisite and unknown music, I followed the direction from whence
they seemed to proceed, and I again found myself near the singular
being who had occupied all my thoughts for the last three days.
Carelessly lying beneath a tree, his features were now as calm as
they had appeared troubled the day previous, and as he listened with
impassioned expression to the fury of the tempest in the old castle,
so did he now seem to enjoy the concert of the feathered tribe, whose
notes he was whistling with most astounding imitation. I could not
explain the strange destiny that led me constantly into his presence.

“My astonishment had not yet ceased, for, on returning the following
evening from a long walk, just as the stars began their first
scintillations, I sat down to repose myself under the Loggie degli
Uffizi. A joyous party passed me, and sat down on a marble seat some
distance from me; soon after, celestial sounds struck upon my ear,
by turns joyful and plaintive, evidently produced by the hand of a
superior artist. Silence succeeded to the hilarious shouts of the
merry party, all of whom seemed as transfixed by the divine music
as I was myself. They all rose, silently, to follow the artist, who
continued walking while he played. I also followed, to discover what
instrument it was I heard, and who the artist might be that discoursed
so enchantingly upon it. Arrived at the square of the Palazzo Vecchio,
the party entered a restaurant. I followed them. Here they regained
their former merriment, and the leader, more than his companions,
displayed extraordinary animation. To my great surprise, the instrument
was a guitar (which seemed to have become magical), and the performer,
I discovered to be the stranger I had so continuously met. He was no
longer the suffering being he had seemed: his eyes beamed, his veins
swelled with exultation, his coat and waistcoat were both unbuttoned,
his cravat loosened, and his gesticulations those of a madman. I
inquired his name. ‘None of us knows it,’ replied the individual, one
of the party, to whom I addressed myself; ‘I was in company with my
friends, who were singing and dancing to my guitar, when this singular
man pushed in among us, and snatching the guitar from my hands,
commenced playing without saying a word. Annoyed at the intrusion, we
were about to lay hands upon him, but without noticing us in the least,
he continued playing, subjugating us by his exquisite performance.
Each time we inquired his name, he resumed his playing without making
any reply. He occasionally ceased for a while, to relate to us some
extraordinary anecdote. In this manner he has brought us hither,
without more knowledge of him than you possess.’

“Some days after, Paganini was announced to give a concert. Eager to
hear the incomparable artist, whose fame was so universal, and whom I
had not yet heard, I went to the theatre, which was literally crowded
to suffocation. The utmost impatience was manifested until the concert
commenced with a symphony, which, although by a composer of eminence,
was listened to with indifference. At last the artist appeared. I was
astonished at recognising in him the stranger who had so mystified me
for some days, whom I had met at Fiesole, etc. I will not attempt to
describe the effect his performance produced--the transports of frenzy
his incomparable talent excited. Let it suffice to say, that on that
one evening, he seemed to conjoin all the delightful impressions of the
graceful appearance of the peasant girl of the mountain, the hurricane
in the ruins, the warbling of the feathered songsters on the banks of
the Arno, and the inspiring delirium of the evening at the Loggie.”

With a people so imaginative as the Italians, so extraordinary a
looking person as Paganini, his wondrous talent, and the eccentricity
of his mode of life, naturally conduced to superstitious ideas, and
the belief in the supernatural. Many believed he had entered into
a compact with the devil. In Germany these prejudices were greater
even than among the Italians. It has been seen in his letter already
given what was said of him at Vienna, when he played his variations on
the “Witches’ Dance.” At Leipzig, the “Zeitung für die elegant Welt”
gave the following account of one of his concerts:--“In the Hotel de
Pologne, resided a lady of exceeding beauty, whose tresses were the
object of much admiration, but whose features wore an aspect of deep
melancholy, though a sweet yet sad smile was ever playing on her lips.
I had seen her once: this sufficed to imprint her features upon my
memory, and I sought every means to see her at all times. The evening
Paganini gave his last concert, I was near the stage, and although my
eyes wandered all over the theatre, I did not discover her I sought
so anxiously. Paganini appeared. Can I describe the magic of his bow?
The marvellous tones he extracted from the melancholy and plaintive G
string touched every heart; and upon this occasion more so than I ever
remember. At this moment, the sound of a sigh, such as proceeds from
some person dying, struck upon my ear. I looked around, and I saw my
_incognita_, white as marble, unconscious, apparently, of the tears
which fell in showers down her cheeks. I uttered a cry of surprise,
which was heard throughout the theatre; every voice being at the time
hushed into silence. Paganini, who was only a few paces from me, turned
round and looked at me. An extraordinary smile, such as I had never
before seen, played upon his face; but it did not seem either intended
for me or the lady. I watched its direction, and perceived, not without
emotion, dressed in the English fashion, and seated next the lady, my
not very reputable acquaintance of Elbingerode, who returned the smile
with one no less extraordinary. They were then intimate? I understand
that smile now. In reality, it had been generally observed, and for
a long time surmised, that Paganini and Satan were most intimately
connected, or that they were one and the same person. My discovery made
me forget my lady; but judge of my horror, when upon turning round I
saw her neighbour take her hand, squeeze it with affection, and the
lady grow paler than before. I was thunderstruck; but at this moment
the applause increased. Paganini had finished playing. The audience
rose, as did the lady and her friend. I followed them to the door,
before which stood a carriage with two black horses. The lady got in,
followed by her cavalier, when the carriage flew off, bright flashes
of lightning bursting forth from the horses’ eyes. Greatly agitated,
I returned to the theatre; but Paganini’s marvels no longer astounded
me. The concert concluded, I left by the same door through which the
mysterious lady had passed, and then found there was no place where a
carriage could stand.”

Paganini was deeply affected by these rumours, which not only detracted
from his position, but tended to render his talent valueless. It is
not improbable that in his youth he had himself contributed to the
propagation of such fabrications by his eccentricities. But when age
crept on--when honours and successes had accumulated--he discovered
that none, however great his fame, however favoured by fortune, could
be great when general esteem is withheld. With the view of ending the
ridiculous reports concerning his origin, he published at Prague the
following letter, which his mother had written to him on the 21st of
July, 1828:--

“DEAREST SON,--At last, after seven months have elapsed since I wrote
to you at Milan, I had the happiness of receiving your letter of the
9th current, through the intermediary of Signor Agnino, and was much
rejoiced to find that you were in the enjoyment of good health. I am
also delighted to find that, after your travels to Paris and London,
you purpose visiting Genoa expressly to embrace me. I assure you, my
prayers are daily offered up to the Most High, that my health may be
sustained, also yours, so that my desire may be realized.

“My dream has been fulfilled, and that which God promised me has been
accomplished. Your name is great, and art, with the help of God, has
placed you in a position of independence. Beloved, esteemed by your
fellow citizens, you will find in my bosom and those of your friends,
that repose which your health demands.

“The portraits which accompanied your letter have given me great
pleasure. I had seen in the papers all the accounts you give me of
yourself. You may imagine, as your mother, what an infinite source of
joy it was to me. Dear son, I entreat you to continue to inform me of
all that concerns you, for with this assurance I shall feel that it
will prolong my days, and be convinced that I shall still have the
happiness of embracing you.

“We are all well. In the name of all your relations, I thank you for
the sums of money you have sent. Omit nothing that will render your
name immortal. Eschew the vices of great cities, remembering that
you have a mother who loves you affectionately, and whose fondest
aspirations are your health and happiness. She will never cease her
supplications to the All-powerful for your preservation.

“Embrace your amiable companion for me, and kiss little Achille. Love
me as I love you.

      “Your ever affectionate mother,
                        “TERESA PAGANINI.”

This letter was not necessary to prove to reasoning mortals that the
great artist was not a son of Satan. But the ignorant mass listens not
to reason, nor are its superstitious beliefs easily removed. Opinion
in France did justice to these follies, but they seemed to revive
afterwards, and acquired renewed strength after the decease of him who
had been so calumniated during his life.

Nothing could be more variable than the moral dispositions of Paganini;
at one time melancholy and taciturn, passing several hours seated,
without uttering a word; at another, he would give himself entirely
up to unrestrained gaiety, without any apparent motive for either the
one or the other. He seldom spoke much; but while travelling, the
movement of the carriage rendered him loquacious. Mr. George Harrys,
who lived for some time on terms of intimacy with him, and who has
published some curious details on his private life,[O] states that his
bad health rendered his speaking aloud extremely painful, but when the
noise of the wheels rattling over the stones was almost deafening, he
spoke loudly and rapidly. It was not, as with most persons, the beauty
of the country through which he passed that made him communicative,
for he paid no attention to the lovely landscapes which met his eye in
every direction; rapid transit seemed to be his only aim; but there
was something in the rolling of the coach which made conversation
a necessity. His constant suffering did not permit him to enjoy a
beautiful country, where others dwelt who were blessed with health.
Besides, he was always cold, and even at a summer heat of twenty-two
degrees he wrapped his large cloak around him, and ensconced himself
in a corner of a carriage, with the windows hermetically closed. By
a singular contradiction, he invariably kept all the windows of his
apartments wide open, to take, as he called it, an air bath. He cursed
the climate of Germany, of France, and above all of England, saying
there was no living but in Italy. Travelling was exceedingly painful to
him, suffering, as he constantly did, from pain in the abdomen; hence
his wish to travel quickly. In the agony he experienced, his habitual
paleness was replaced by a livid and greenish hue. Sleep to him was a
source of great delight, and he would sleep uninterruptedly for two
or three hours consecutively, and awake full of cheerfulness. When
the horses were being changed, he either remained in the carriage, or
walked about until the fresh horses were put to; but he never entered
an inn or post-house until he arrived at the end of his journey. Before
starting, he neither took tea nor coffee, but a basin of soup, or a
cup of chocolate. If he started early in the morning, he would do so
fasting, and frequently remained nearly the whole day without taking
any refreshment. His luggage caused no trouble, as it consisted only of
a small dilapidated trunk, containing his precious Guarnieri Violin,
his jewels, his money, and a few fine linen articles, a carpet bag, and
a hat-case, which was placed in the interior of the carriage. Careless
of all that related to the comforts of life, he was alike negligent
in his toilet. A small napkin would contain his entire wardrobe; his
papers, which were of paramount importance, representing immense value,
he kept in a small red pocket-book, which also contained his accounts.
None but himself could decipher these hieroglyphics of his Babel-like
accounts, where pell-mell were mixed up Vienna and Carlsruhe, Berlin,
Frankfort, and Leipzig, receipts and outlay for post-horses, etc.,
and concert tickets. All was clear to him; though extremely ignorant
of arithmetic, he had devised certain means of arriving at an exact
account of all his affairs.

In the inns on the road, Paganini was never dissatisfied. It was a
matter of indifference to him, whether he was shown into a garret or
an elegantly-furnished chamber, whether the bed was good or bad, as
long as he was removed from all noise. “I have enough noise in large
towns,” he would say, “I wish to rest on the road.” His supper was
always extremely light; frequently he would take nothing but a cupful
of camomile tea, after which he would sleep soundly till the morning.
However, when, about fifteen years before his death, he was attacked
with the phthisis which ultimately proved fatal, a convulsive cough
frequently interrupted his sleep; but as soon as the crisis was over,
he was asleep again.

The most securely-guarded state prisoner never experienced so
monotonous a course of existence as that to which Paganini condemned
himself at home; he left his room with regret, and only seemed happy
in perfect solitude. Many have thought his Violin occupied him
constantly. Never was error greater--he never touched it except to tune
it previously to going to a rehearsal or a concert. “I have laboured
enough to acquire my talent,” he would say, “it is time I should rest
myself.” The anecdote is perhaps known, of an Englishman, a passionate
admirer and amateur of the Violin, who, intent on discovering the
secret of the great artist’s study, followed in his steps for more
than six months, staying at the same hotels, and always when possible
in the next room. Vainly, however, did he seek to hear him study some
of his difficulties--the most profound silence reigned in the artist’s
apartment. It occurred, however, that on one occasion the rooms of the
amateur and the artist were only separated by a door which was not
used. Peeping through the keyhole, the curiosity of the amateur was,
as it appeared, about to be gratified. He saw Paganini, seated on a
sofa, taking from its case the precious Violin, which, on being raised
to his shoulder, assured him his long-sought happiness was about to
be realized; but not a note was heard, for Paganini merely moved his
left hand up and down the finger-board, to calculate certain positions,
without using the bow. This done, the Violin was replaced in its case.
In utter despair, the Englishman gave up the fruitless pursuit, and
returned to England.

Paganini did not seek to conceal that his constant study of the
instrument in his early years precluded his attending to his education,
and that his mind was but ill-stored with literary instruction. He
never looked into a book, not even to wile away any portion of time
by reading a romance. History and the sciences were sealed books to
him. M. Schottky, notwithstanding, found among the documents which
were furnished to him by M. Amati, an anecdote which indicates
that the great violinist’s memory retained certain smatterings of
history, mythology, and poetry, which he would apply occasionally most
oppositely. Dining one day with the celebrated poets, Monti and Ugo
Foscolo, at the residence of the beautiful, rich, and witty Comtesse
F----’s, Foscolo, who was captivated with the charms of the Comtesse,
arrived the last, and finding Monti, his rival, addressing her in
terms of gallantry, he abruptly quitted the apartment, and hastened to
allay his fierceness on the garden terrace. Here he met Paganini, and
his passion subsided. Approaching him with great warmth, and seizing
his hand, he said to him, “When I heard you at the concert yesterday,
Homer stood before me in all his sublimity. The grandeur of the first
movement of your concerto brought to my mind the arrival of the Greek
ships before Troy. The exquisite loveliness of the Adagio pictured to
me the tender love-talk of Achilles and Briséis. When will you let me
hear the despair and wailings of the hero over the body of Patroclus?”
Paganini replied, without hesitation, “When Achilles Paganini finds his
Patroclus among violinists.”

Political events had no interest for him; he consequently never read a
newspaper unless it contained something concerning himself. His whole
thoughts were occupied on projects for the future. Among these were the
founding of a musical conservatory in Italy, the publication of his
compositions, the writing of operas, and abandoning his professional
tours. While dwelling on these subjects, he would pace his room with
great rapidity, arrange his stray pieces of music, or number his red
diary, dress himself and go to dinner, or have it brought to his room,
which he preferred to the _table d’hôte_. He spent a great portion of
the day reclining on his bed, and left his room only in the evening,
to walk for about an hour. He would pass the entire evening without
light in his apartment, and rarely went to bed later than half-past
ten. He frequently remained for hours absorbed in deep thought, almost
motionless. Mistrustful, like most Italians, he complained of the
treachery of some of his most intimate friends, which necessarily
rendered him the more so; hence his dislike to society--he did not
believe he could repose the slightest confidence in any one.

Notwithstanding his extreme repugnance to receiving visits, his
world-wide fame brought sometimes from sixty to eighty visitors,
anxious to see and speak with him; many of these he would refer to his
secretary, but others he could not avoid receiving. Circumspect with
those who came on business, he was more so with artists who came to
discover the secret of his talent; he listened to these patiently. His
fatigue was so great after receiving these visits, that he would bolt
his door, and not answer anyone who knocked.

The invitations he received for dinners and suppers were very numerous
in all the towns he visited, or remained in to give concerts; they
annoyed him, and he refused most of them, aware of his habit of
partaking of everything that was placed on the table. He could eat and
drink largely without feeling any ill effects at the time, but in a
day or two his intestinal pains would come on with redoubled force. He
would invariably, if he could do so without being observed, retire to
rest as soon as he left the table. He was infinitely gayer previous to
dinner than after. One would be inclined to suppose he was desirous
of impressing upon his host the sacrifice he made in accepting the
invitation: it was so, in fact.

At evening parties he was extremely cheerful, if no mention was made
of music; but if, with the ill-judged view of affording him amusement,
it was proposed or spoken of, his spirits immediately left him. If to
gather his opinions upon other violinists, or to question him upon his
talent, he only replied monosyllabically, and endeavoured to avoid
the inquisition by stealing away to another part of the room, or to
interrupt the conversation by observations on other subjects. In the
large cities of Germany, vocal and instrumental societies deemed it a
homage to his talent to perform before him some musical compositions;
but, although he would appear to listen with attention, his mind was
pre-occupied on other subjects, and he rarely knew what he listened to.
He occasionally avowed, with great sincerity, that the obligation of
identifying his public existence with music made him feel an imperious
desire to forget the art when he entered into ordinary life. Nor can
it be dissimulated that this idiosyncracy pertains to almost every
artist who has obtained great celebrity, and who has acquired popular
fame. With these, all their faculties are concentrated in the feeling
of their personality. Art, separated from their own glorification, does
not exist. Gluck and Grétry recognized no music but their own, nor
believed any other to be worthy of being performed. How many composers
have been imbued with the same feeling, differing with those great
men only in dissimulation! With those whose executive talents bring
them in contact with the public, it is worse still; without personal
ovations, it is not only indifference for the art, it is hatred.
Hence, when, having returned to the ordinary conditions of life, and
withdrawn from the manifestations of enthusiasm they have for so long
a period excited, artists who come into this category decline rapidly,
and present in their old age a spectacle of moral degradation, unless,
by an extraordinary exception, great intellectual faculties have been
united to their extraordinary talent.

Paganini felt great pleasure in a small circle of friends, and in quiet
conversation. The amusements of society delighted him; and he would
remain until a late hour, where he did not appear to be an object of
attention. He did not like the glare of light--his sight having been
affected by stage lights--hence his habit of playing with his back to
the lights, and of remaining in the dark when at home. His memory was
excellent, despite his habitual abstraction. When once persons had been
introduced to him, their features and names were never forgotten; but,
by some inexplicable singularity, he never remembered the name of a
town in which he gave concerts the moment he left it.

Notwithstanding the enormous number of concerts he gave, Paganini was
pre-occupied the day on which one was given. He would remain idle the
whole morning, lying on a sofa. Before going to a rehearsal, he would
open his Violin-case to examine the state of his strings, tune it, and
prepare the orchestral parts of the pieces he intended playing. During
these operations he took large quantities of snuff--a certain token
with him of great mental excitement and disquietude. On arriving at
rehearsal, his first care was to see that no person was in the room or
theatre. Should any one be there, he merely indicated to the band what
he desired by almost an imperceptible sound, or slight pizzicato. He
was extremely severe with the band; and would have a solo or a tutti
repeated for the slightest error. If this continued, he would pace to
and fro before the orchestra, and dart the most furious looks at the
musicians; but when a tutti came in too soon, before the termination of
a cadenza, he burst forth into a tempest of rage which would cause the
boldest to tremble. When, however, the accompaniment was satisfactory,
he would smile, and express his approbation aloud, in these words,
“Bravissimo! Siete tutti virtuosi!” When he came to a pause for the
introduction of a cadenza, the musicians all rose, eager to observe
what he was about to play, but Paganini would merely play a few
notes--stop suddenly--and, turning towards them, would laughingly add,
“Et cætera, Messieurs!” It was only in the evening he would put forth
all his strength. After the rehearsal, he would converse for a few
moments with the leader, to thank him for the attention that had been
paid, and sought out especial passages for his particular observation.
He invariably carried away himself the orchestral parts, of which he
was particularly careful. The principal part was never seen, as he
played from memory, to avoid his pieces being copied. When he returned
home he partook of a light repast, threw himself upon his bed, and
remained there until the carriage came to take him to the theatre. A
few minutes sufficed for his toilet, and he proceeded at once to the
concert. When he arrived he evinced as much gaiety, as he had displayed
gravity during the day. His first question was “is there a large
audience?” If answered in the affirmative, he would say, “good--good!
excellent people!” if, on the contrary, he was told the audience was
small, he expressed a fear that the effect of the music would be lost
in the empty boxes.

Paganini was not always alike disposed for his concerts. He had doubts
of himself; and, trying several difficult passages, if he failed in
executing them with his usual facility, he became angry, and exclaimed,
“If I were in Paris, I would not play to-day.” He would frequently
recover himself during the evening, and say ingeniously to his friends,
“I have played better at the end than at the commencement of the
concert.” He kept the public waiting a long time before he came on.
His departure from the theatre resembled a triumph; a crowd formed an
avenue to his carriage, and greeted him with loud acclamations; he
was received similarly on his arrival at his hotel. Paganini seemed
delighted with the homage, and frequently mixed with the crowds that
surrounded the doors. He would join the company at the _table d’hôte_
in the best possible spirits, and would sup heartily.

There are few examples of such devotion to severe study as Paganini
evinced in the accomplishment of his art. He created the difficulties
he performed, with a view of varying the effects and augmenting the
resources of his instrument--this, as it is seen, having been his
object, so soon as he was capable of reflecting on his ultimate
destiny. Having played the music of the old masters, particularly that
of Pugnani, Viotti and Kreutzer, he felt he could never attain great
fame if he followed in their path. Chance brought under his notice
the ninth work of Locatelli, entitled, “l’Arte di Nuova Modulazione,”
and he at once saw in it a new world of ideas and facts, though,
on its first appearance it was unsuccessful from its excessive
difficulty, and, perhaps, also, because it was in advance of the
period when “classic” forms should be departed from. Circumstances
were favourable to Paganini, for the necessity of innovation was at
its zenith in his day. In adopting the ideas of his predecessors, in
resuscitating forgotten effects, in superadding what his genius and
perseverance gave birth to, he arrived at that distinctive character of
performance and his ultimate greatness. The diversity of sounds--the
different methods of tuning his instrument--the frequent employment of
double and single harmonic notes--the simultaneous pizzicato and bow
passages--the various staccati--the use of the double and even triple
notes--a prodigious facility in executing wide intervals with unerring
precision, joined to an extraordinary number of various styles of
bowing--such were the principal features of Paganini’s talent--means
which were rendered perfect by his execution--his exquisite nervous
sensibility, and his enormous musical feeling. From the manner in which
he placed himself, leaning, as it were, on his hip, from the position
of his right arm, and the manner in which he held his bow, it would
have been thought its movements would be nothing less than awkward,
and the arm all stiffness; but it was soon observed that the bow and
the arm moved with equal ease, and what appeared to be the result of
some malformation, was the result of deep study of that which was most
favourable to the effect the artist wished to produce. His bow was of
ordinary dimensions; but was screwed up with more than usual tension.
It is probable Paganini found it preferable for his bounding staccato,
which differed from that of all other violinists. In the notice which
he wrote at Lucca, he says great surprise was manifested at the length
of his bow, and the thickness of his strings; but, some time after, he
evidently discovered the difficulty of producing vibration in every
part of the strings, and consequently, of obtaining a perfect tone, for
he gradually diminished their dimensions--and when he played in Paris
his strings were under the medium size. Paganini’s hands were large,
dry, and nervous. His fingers, by dint of excessive practice, had
acquired a suppleness and aptitude difficult to conceive. The thumb of
the left hand fell easily upon the palm of his hand, when necessary for
the execution of certain shifting passages.

The quality of tone which Paganini brought from his instrument was
clear and pure, without being excessively full, except in certain
effects, when it was manifest he collected all his power to arrive
at extraordinary results. But what most distinguished this portion
of his talent was the variety of voices he drew from the strings, by
means of his own, or which, after having been discovered by others,
had been neglected, their full import having been misunderstood. Thus,
the harmonic sounds, which before his time had only been considered
as curious and limited effects, rather than as a positive benefit to
a violinist, formed an important feature in Paganini’s performance.
It was not only for an isolated effect that he employed them, but as
an artificial means to reach certain intervals, which the largest
hand could never embrace. It was from the harmonic sounds that he
obtained on the fourth string a compass of three octaves. Before
Paganini, none had imagined that beyond natural harmonics, it was
possible to execute thirds, fifths, sixths; in fact, that at the
octaves in diatonic succession, natural and harmonic sounds could be
produced. All these Paganini executed in every position with the utmost
facility. In singing he frequently produced a vibratory effect, which
greatly resembled the human voice, but when, by sliding the hand, the
voice became like that of an old woman, the effect was affected and
exaggerated. Paganini’s intonation was perfect; this rare quality was
not the least of the advantages he possessed over other violinists.

After having spoken of the great qualities of Paganini’s talent, it
is necessary to consider it from the general impression it produced
upon the public. Many overleap the bounds of reason in expatiating on
the poetry of his playing, particularly upon his singing. He was cited
as the great Violin singer--as the creator of a pathetic and dramatic
school, applied to the art of bowing. I confess that I do not look at
his prodigious talent in this light. What I experienced in listening to
him was astonishment--unbounded admiration; but I was seldom moved by
that feeling which appears to me inseparable from the true expression
of music. The poetry of the great violinist consisted, principally, in
his brilliancy; and, if I may be allowed the expression, the mastery of
his bow. There was fulness and grandeur in his phrasing--but there was
no tenderness in his accents. In the prayer from “Mosè,” for example,
he was great when the baritone voice was heard on the fourth string,
from the elevated character he gave to it; but when he came to the
part of Elcia, an octave higher on the same string, he fell into an
affected strain of heavy, tremulous sounds, which good taste would
have rejected. His triumph was in the last major strain; here he was
sublime--and he then left an impression bordering on enthusiasm.

To pronounce judgment upon Paganini, it was necessary to hear him in
his own especial style--that which most characterized his talent. In
his concerts in Paris, he thought it necessary to flatter the national
feeling by playing a concerto by Kreutzer and one by Rode--but he
scarcely rose above mediocrity in their performance. His secretary,
Mr. Harrys, tells us the opinion Paganini formed of himself as regards
these attempts. He said to him, “I have my own peculiar style; in
accordance with this, I regulate my composition. To play those of
other artists, I must arrange them accordingly: I had much rather
write a piece in which I can trust myself entirely to my own musical
impressions.” The unfavourable impression he made in Paris, with
these two pieces, was a lesson to him; he never played from that time
any music but his own. Paganini’s art did not apply to any species
of composition--his was a specialty, of which he alone could be the
interpreter--an art born with him, the secret of which he has carried
with him to the grave.

I have used a word he often repeated--for he frequently insisted
that his talent resulted from a secret discovered by him--and which
he would reveal before his death, in a “study for the Violin,” that
should only contain a small number of pages, but that should cause the
utmost consternation to all violinists. He cited, in support of the
infallibility of his secret, the experiment that he had made at Naples,
upon a violoncellist of little talent, named Gaetano Ciandelli, who, by
the revelation of the mystery, became transformed in one morning into
a _virtuoso_. Apart from the study of mechanism--for which there is
no substitute--no secret can exist from talent, but that which nature
implants in the heart of the artist; there is, however, something
astounding and mysterious in the faculty which Paganini possessed, of
invariably overcoming the almost unheard-of difficulties, without ever
touching the Violin except at concerts and rehearsals. Mr. Harrys, who
was his secretary, and did not leave him for more than a year, never
saw him take his Violin from its case. Be it, however, as it may, death
has not permitted the secret, of which Paganini spoke, to be divulged.

Many notices of the life and talent of this great artist have been
published, either in collections or separately; the most important are
the following:--

1. “Paganini’s Leben und Treiben als Künstler und als Mensch,” (Life
and Adventures of Paganini, as an Artist, and as a Man). Prague,
Calve, 1830, in 8vo of 410 pages. This work, of which M. Schottky is
the author, is but a compilation, without order, of correspondence,
anecdotes, and German newspaper reports, as far as concerns the travels
of the artist, from his first leaving Italy. An abridgment of this
work, in which many doubtful facts and positive false accounts have
been introduced, was published by M. L. Vinela, under the title of
“Paganini’s Leben und Charakter,” (Life and Character of Paganini).
Hamburg, Hoffmann and Campe, 1830, in 8vo.

2. “Paganini in seinem Reisewagen und Zimmer, in seinen redseligen
Stunden, in gesellschaftlichen Zirkeln, und seinen Concerten,”
(Paganini in his Post-chaise, in his Room, in his hours of Privacy,
in Society, and his Concerts). Brunswick, Vieweg, 1830, in 8vo of 68
pages. A work written in simplicity and good faith, indicating sound
judgment. Mr. George Harrys, or Harris, the writer of this opusculum,
was an Englishman, attached to the Court of Hanover. With a view of
studying Paganini as a man and an artist, and to publish this notice,
he became his interpreter and secretary, and remained with him an
entire year.

3. “Leben, Character und Kunst N. Paganini’s. Eine Skizze,” (Sketch of
the Life, Character, and Talent of Paganini, by M. F. C. J. Schütz,
Professor at Halle). Leipzig, Rein, 1830, in 8vo.

4. “Notice sur le célèbre violoniste Nicolo Paganini,” by M. J. Imbert
de la Phalèque. Paris, E. Guyot, in 8vo, of 66 pages, with portrait.

5. “Paganini, his Life, his Person, and a few Words upon his Secret,”
by G. L. Anders. Paris, Delaunay, 1831, in 8vo.

6. “Paganini et Bériot, ou Avis aux artistes qui se destinent à
l’enseignement du Violon,” by Fr. Fayolle. Paris, Legouest, 1831, in

7. “Vita di Nicolo Paganini di Genova, scritta ed illustrata da
Giancarlo Conestabile, socio di varie Academie.” Perugia, tipografia di
Vincenzo Bartelli, 1831, 1 vol. in 8vo, 317 pages. An excellent work,
carefully edited, and in a good spirit of criticism, from documents
chosen with discernment. The portrait of Paganini is given from M.
Schottky’s, but softened and idealized.

Independently of the portraits which accompany most of the above works,
many were published in Italy, in Germany, and in France. The most
sought for are the following:--1st. Portrait of Paganini, lithographed
by Maurin, in the 7th volume of the Revue Musicale; 2nd, one
lithographed by Mauzaise, in 4to, Paris, Bénard; 3rd, Milan, Ricordi;
4th, drawn and lithographed by Begas, Berlin, Sachse, in 4to; 5th,
without name of author, in 4to, Berlin, Trautwein and Co.; 6th, drawn
by Hahn, Munich, Falter; 7th, lithographed by Krätzschmar, Leipzig,
Breitkopf and Härtel; 8th, without name of author, Vienna, Artaria,
1828; 9th, ditto, Hamburg, Niemeyer; 10th, ditto, Leipzig, Pönicke;
11th, ditto, Mannheim, Heckel.



Paganini Appreciated as a Composer.


Long ere the talent of Paganini had acquired popularity beyond Italy, a
collection of studies for the Violin, under his name, still unknown to
French violinists, had been published, and created a deep impression;
so many novelties were there accumulated, and the difficulties they
presented were so problematical, and under forms so peculiar, that many
professors doubted the possibility of their execution, and went so
far as to look upon the publication of that work as a mystification.
However, the composer, Andreozzi, who had brought to Paris the copy
from which Pacini published his edition, attested that there was
in Italy a man who executed those difficulties as though they were
mere trifles, and who would astound the professors and pupils of the
Conservatoire, if they heard him. This man was the author himself--it
was Paganini.

At the same time, Blangini, on his return from Italy, also spoke of
this artist with enthusiasm, and likewise attested that his art bore no
affinity with the manner of playing the Violin that all great masters
had propagated until his day; that all was the invention of his talent,
and that he was destined to revolutionize the style of playing the
Violin. Some young artists, among whom was Habeneck, attempted to solve
these musical enigmas, but finally abandoned them, as they could not
discover the application of these novelties to the pure music of the
great composers.

The struggle between Lafont and Paganini resuscitated the confused
recollection of his name, and the prodigies he effected were the
subject of serious conversation. Insensibly the fact of his success
became patent--the journals confirmed it, and the name of the artist
gradually acquired popularity. However, fame blazoned forth his name
as a violinist only--not as a composer. The twenty-four studies of the
first work were only known in France, more than twenty years after it
was published. It was only after he had enchanted all Paris, and had
traversed France, gaining triumphs wherever he played, that the value
of his compositions attracted some attention. They were then sought
after. Italy and Germany were written to for copies of his concertos,
his fantasias, and his airs with variations, but none of them had been
published. The list of this artist’s works which appeared, comprised
the following only:--

1. “Ventiquattro Capricci per Violino solo, dedicati agli artisti,
Op. 1.” These studies or capriccios, in various keys, consist of
arpeggi, staccati, trills in octaves, and scales in octaves, tenths,
combinations of double, triple, and quadruple chords, etc.

2. “Sei Sonate per Violino e Chitarra, dedicati al Signor delle Piane.”
Op. 2.

3. “Sei Sonati per Violino e Chitarra, dedicati alla Ragazza Eleonora.”
Op. 3.

4. “Tre gran Quartetti a Violino, Viola, Chitarra e Violoncello,
dedicati alle amatrici.” Op. 4, Idem. Op. 5, Ibid. Paganini said of
this work to Mr. Harrys, that it was not his, but was formed from some
of his themes badly arranged.

These are the only positive productions of Paganini published up to
the present day (June, 1851); all that has appeared since must be
considered as commercial trickeries, as extracts from the preceding
works, or simply as fugitive recollections of some artists. Such are
the following:--

“Variazioni di bravura per Violino sopra un tema originale, con
accompagnamento di Chitarra o Piano.” These variations are those which
form the twenty-fourth capriccio (in A minor) of the first work.

“Trois airs variés pour le Violon, pour être exécutés sur la quatrième
corde seulement, avec accompagnement de Piano, par Gustave Carulli.”
These are recollections arranged by the author of the accompaniment.

“Introduzione e variazioni in sol sul tema, ‘Nel cor più non mi sento’
per Violino solo.” This piece, published in the work of Guhr, upon the
art of Paganini[P] is noted nearly from memory.

“Merveille de Paganini, ou duo pour le Violon seul en ut.” This is also
from Guhr.

Ghys published at Paris and at Berlin the “Carnaval de Venise, tel
que le jouait Paganini.” Ernst and Sivori have also given, as exact
traditions of this musical pleasantry, versions differing more or less,
which gave rise to discussions in the newspapers. The publication of
the veritable “Carnaval de Venise” of the illustrious violinist will
remove all uncertainty in this respect.

Paganini was aware that the interest which his concerts created would
diminish materially, if he published the compositions he performed.
He resolved therefore upon not publishing them until after he had
ceased to travel, and had retired from his career of executive artist.
He only carried with him the orchestral parts of those pieces he
habitually played; and no one ever saw the Violin solo parts of these
compositions, for he dreaded the indiscretion of all who sought to gain
access to him. He seldom spoke of his works, even to his most intimate
friends, consequently an indistinct notion of the nature and number of
these works could alone exist. M. Conestabile, who made every effort
to acquire the truth of all that concerned the person, the talent, and
the success of Paganini, has published in his book the catalogue which
was sent to him of all the manuscript and original works of Paganini
preserved by his son.

The titles of the works are as follows:--

1. Four Concertos for the Violin, with accompaniments.

2. Four other concertos, the orchestral parts unwritten. The last was
written a short time prior to his death, at Nice.

3. Variations upon a comic theme continued for the orchestra.

4. Sonata for the large Viol, with orchestral parts.

5. “God save the King,” varied for the Violin, with orchestral parts.

6. “Le Streghe,” variations on a ballet air, with orchestral parts.

7. Variations upon “Non più mesta,” theme from “Cenerentola.”

8. Grand Sentimental Sonata.

9. Sonata, with variations.

10. “La Primavera,” (Spring), Sonata, without accompaniments.

11. “Varsovie,” Sonata.

12. La ci darem la mano.

13. “Le Carnaval de Venise.”

14. “Di tanti palpiti.”

15. “Marie Louise.”

16. Romance pour le chant.

17. Cantabile for Violin and Piano.

18. Polonaise, with variations.

19. Fantaisie Vocale.

20. Sonata, for Violin Solo.

21. Nine Quartetts, for Violin, Alto, Violoncello, and Guitar.

22. Cantabile and Waltz.

23. Three Duetts, for Violin and Violoncello.

24. Other Duetts and small Pieces for Violin and Guitar.

Unfortunately many of these compositions are incomplete. The original
scores, without omissions, which have been found, are the two concertos
in E flat and in B minor (it is in this latter the celebrated rondo
of “La Clochette” is found); the allegro of a sonata, entitled
“Movimento perpetuo”; the famous variations “Le Streghe” (the Witches)
with orchestral parts; the variations upon “God save the King,” with
parts; variations upon “Di tanti palpiti,” with parts; variations
upon “Non più mesta, accanto al fuoco,” with parts; the “Carnaval de
Venise,” twenty-four variations upon a popular Venetian air; and sixty
variations, in three series, with accompaniment for Piano or Guitar,
upon the popular air known at Genoa under the name of “Barucaba.” The
theme is very short; the variations are studies of various kind of
difficulties. These were written by Paganini, at Genoa, in February,
1835, and were among his latest works; he dedicated them to his friend
the advocate, M. L. G. Germi. By some singular circumstance these
variations are not included in the list furnished by M. Conestabile.

It will be seen the complete works of Paganini, which have been
found, are only nine in number. It is to be deplored that among these
high-class productions, the magnificent concerto that the great artist
wrote for Paris, and which he played at his third concert at the opera,
the 25th of March 1831, should be wanting; also the grand military
sonata upon the fourth string in which he displayed such marvellous
ability, in a compass of three octaves with harmonic sounds; and,
finally, his variations upon “Nel cor più non mi sento.”

The compositions of Paganini are redolent with merit--novelty in ideas,
elegance of form, richness of harmony, and variety in the effects of
instrumentation. These qualities are especially found in his concertos,
which have exercised great influence on compositions of this nature
that have subsequently been published. They differ in form in many
points from the classic form of Viotti’s concertos. There is the
merit of uniformity and increasing interest, which it were well all
violinists would meditate upon. In general, without diverting attention
from the solo by over-elaborated passages, the instrumentation
possessed an interest which cannot be separated from the principal
design. The _entrées_ are neither cold nor symmetrical--the effects new
and varied.

The first concerto is in E flat, set for the orchestra, but the Violin
is written in D; the four strings of the instrument are consequently
tuned a semitone higher. The tutti, admirably written, is bold and
flowing, and very effective. The forms remind one generally of those
of the old concerto, more than of those Paganini wrote since, this
being his first. I have an indistinct recollection of his having
composed this one in 1811. There is little originality in the style
of the tutti and the solos; but in the details, and above all, in the
brilliant passages, there are certain points which render this concerto
a work of the greatest interest; there is frequent employment of double
notes and harmonics. The second solo presents effects on the fourth
string, of which effects Paganini is the inventor. It terminates with
the last passage of the first solo transposed into the original key.

The adagio (in C minor) is a dialogue between the fourth string and the
other three. The conception of this dialogue appears to have absorbed
all the artist’s attention, for the melody has little novelty. This is
not the case with the rondo--the theme of which is peculiarly original.
There is an extraordinary staccato passage, which Paganini executed in
a novel manner, peculiar to himself. It is necessary to understand the
method to give this passage its original character. It is in this rondo
that Paganini employed, for the first time, tenths, combined in various
ways, producing wonderful effects, by the unerring and marvellous
certainty of his mechanism. The character of the piece is bold: the
second solo, nearly all on the fourth string and in harmonics, produced
an extraordinary sensation, nothing similar having been heard prior to
its introduction.

The second concerto is in B minor. The commencement of the first
piece is broad and impassioned; the harmony often interesting in its
successions; the instrumentation intelligent and rich in effects. The
tutti are weak in development, and serve only to connect together the
various solo parts. The phrase of the commencement of the first solo
is very grand, and largely developed, followed by a modulation in D,
where much boldness is displayed in a novel passage of double notes.
The melody which follows is somewhat poor--the four first bars being
repeated without any change--which is a fault; but the passage which
follows is particularly effective. Paganini in this has evinced much
daring in the combination of difficulties, both for the bow and the
left hand. He has introduced a double shake, descending in thirds--in
the execution of which he was incomparable, both in brilliancy and the
irreproachable perfection of his intonation.

The second tutti, which recalls the subject of the first, is rather
short, but interesting; it modulates in E minor, and terminates with
an unusual form of suspension. The subject of the second solo differs
totally from the first; the melody is expressive and combines effects
of staccato, to which Paganini imparted a character quite peculiar.
The passage which follows this subject, all in double notes, is very
effective: its combinations present immense difficulties, which to the
great artist were but mere trifles. The second solo ends in B major,
finishes with the passage of the first, transposed into this new key,
and consequently rendered much more difficult.

Throughout this first piece, the double-note passages and jumping
bowing are quite novel, and depart entirely from the ordinary form of
the concerto. Two things are equally remarkable in the manner Paganini
played them. The first was his perfect intonation of the double notes
in this shoal of difficulties, particularly in the excessive rapidity
in the passages; the second was the marvellous skill with which
he managed the bow, however great the distances of the intervals.
There was in this part alone of the artist’s talent an evident
predestination, and the study of an entire life. It is impossible to
give any idea of all the combinations which are met in the fingering
of the chords strewn among these immensely difficult passages; they
embrace occasionally such extraordinary intervals, that violinists
are at a loss to discover the artifices by which the hand reaches
them. Besides, in this labyrinth of unheard-of difficulties, neither a
doubtful note nor uncertain intonation ever occurred.

The adagio (in D) is a cantabile of the finest character. More simple
than the rest of Paganini’s compositions, it produced but little
effect, finishing as it does without the exhibition of extraordinary
difficulties, which the public were wont to expect from him;
nevertheless, the forms of the melody are elegant, expressive, and full
of charms. Good taste prevails throughout this piece. The rondo with
the obbligato bell accompaniment is delightfully fanciful; the most
incomprehensible feats of skill are here combined with exquisite taste.
The first subject is remarkable for its elegance and novelty, both
in its details and its general formation. Some charming bow effects
are introduced, which Paganini executed with marvellous brilliancy
and dexterity. The bow fluttered so nimbly over the strings, and the
fingers moved so briskly and lightly, that the performance seemed
one of easy accomplishment. The rondo of the “Clochette” obtained
enthusiastic success throughout Europe.

The allegro of the sonata for Violin and orchestra, entitled “Movimento
perpetuo,” is only remarkable as a study for detached bowing of
exceedingly rapid movement, which continues until the last bar. This
species of difficulty exacts great suppleness of arm to avoid fatigue,
and a perfect _ensemble_ of the left hand and the bow. In this piece
there are no less than 170 bars without a single rest. Considered as a
composition, it is unimportant, but interesting as a study.

Few musical compositions ever obtained such universal fame as the
“Streghe” (the Witches), either from the prodigious execution of the
great violinist, or perhaps because some superstition attached to the
title. The original manuscript indicates that the introduction and the
variations are composed upon an original air; however, if tradition is
to be depended upon, the air was taken from the ballet of “Il Noce di
Benevento.” The introduction is short. The first variation, in double
and triple notes, is extremely difficult. It may be regarded as a
valuable study for playing in tune. In the second there is a mixture
of harmonics and pizzicato which produces a very original effect. The
third is a dialogue between the fourth string and the double harmonics;
a novel effect which never failed to draw down the loudest acclamations
of the auditory. The finale, which joins this variation, terminates
with rapid passages upon the fourth string, and in harmonics of extreme

In the variations upon “God save the King,” Paganini seems to have
intended concentrating all the new effects he had discovered, and all
the enormous difficulties over which he had triumphed. The subject
is written in three and in four parts; the melody is played with the
bow, and the other parts of the accompaniment is pizzicato. The
first variation, in double notes, presents successions of thirds and
tenths, which require a large hand and a great certainty of intonation.
Paganini played it in a light and rapid manner, which greatly increased
its difficulty. The second variation is a complication of rapid
triplets, intermingled with passages of double notes and bounding
staccatos. The execution of this variation requires extraordinary
dexterity. In the third the subject is sustained in a slow movement,
during which the accompaniment is going on in extremely rapid passages
on the third and fourth strings. The fourth is peculiarly quaint; it
consists in rapid passages pizzicato in the upper part, while the
accompaniment is played upon the lower, with the bow staccato. The
fifth, written in double notes, is an echo effect on the upper octave,
the bass is by pizzicato on the lower strings. The sixth and last
consists in staccato arpeggios, difficult of execution, arising from
the complex positions of the left hand.

In the fantasia with variations, on “Di tanti palpiti,” the orchestra
is written in B flat, the solo a semitone higher; in the second
variation the fourth string is lowered to B flat. Paganini effected
this change with so much address, that it was never perceived at his
concerts. The piece commences by an introductory larghetto, followed by
a recitative. The subject which follows is quite simple, and the first
variation without very remarkable difficulties, with the exception of
a very rapid descending scale in harmonics. In the second, where the
fourth string is lowered to B flat, passages occur in double notes
of great difficulty for the bow. The third is the most curious and
difficult; it consists of arpeggios with double notes in a presto
movement, and combinations of harmonics and ordinary notes in a new and
quaint style.

The air with variations, on “La Cenerentola” (Non più mesta), is
written in E flat for the Orchestra; the Violin is tuned a semitone
higher. The first variation contains nothing remarkable; the second,
a combination of bounding staccato harmonics and pizzicato, recalls
similar passages found in other works of the author. The third, in a
minor mood, is composed nearly of octaves. The fourth is an echo, the
effects are double harmonics. It is followed by a finale in thirds and
octaves, brilliantly effective, but fraught with difficulty.

The twenty variations upon the popular air “Oh, Mamma,” known as
the “Carnaval de Venise,” which has been so frequently imitated, are
remarkable for the distinct character given to each; all the bow and
finger effects imagined by Paganini are concentrated in it. Good taste
is sometimes departed from in a few of the variations, but it will
not be denied that some extraordinary effects are produced in those
strange freaks, to which the marvellous dexterity of the artist lent an
irresistible charm.

The last work to which I have to allude is the collection of sixty
variations, in the form of studies, upon the popular air “Barucaba.”
Paganini purposed in each of these studies to give every style of
bowing, all the difficulties of fingering, and all the combinations of
harmony, upon which his school is founded. By a singular notion, nearly
all these variations are written in different keys.

If the astonishing success of Paganini, the immense popularity of
his name, and the influence he exercised over the talent of some
of the violinists of the younger school, be considered, the high
interest attached to the publication of the works with which the great
artist astonished Europe, will be understood. At all events, these
considerations will afford but a very imperfect idea of the importance
of their long-withheld publication. Their value can only be understood
after a long and close examination. For more than twenty years every
violinist has looked forward to the production of these works with
anxiety and curiosity, under the impression of being able, with them,
to “do the Paganini,” and establish himself, if not in imitation,
at least as a pupil of that illustrious man. But few imagined the
great truths which would manifest themselves by the revelation of
the secret of his music--none could foresee how much this great man
would be elevated in their esteem when the prodigious difficulties he
executed while playing, were placed before them. Some of his effects,
the most easy of execution, were hastily copied, and the mystery of
his talent was supposed to have been discovered. How much illusion
will be dissipated by the examination and study of these anxiously
expected works! I will not speak of the simply curious effects by
which Paganini dazzled the million--of his pizzicato and bow feats--of
the modifications in tuning the instrument, and of the thousand
combinations, the merit of which consisted principally in perfect
execution. These will only have an exceptional existence, and will
never hold a place in serious music. Besides, the sagacity of Guhr, a
skilful violinist, and the able conductor of the Frankfort Theatre,
has penetrated, to a certain extent, the secret of these things,
and has cleverly exposed the theory in a work especially devoted to
this purpose.[Q] That which most struck me on reading the MSS. of
Paganini, that which raised him immensely in my estimation, was the
conviction that the mechanism of the art was never carried to the same
extent--that he was never equalled in surmounting difficulties--and
never was such infinite variety displayed in brilliant passages. The
double notes for instance, always the test of great Violinists, as
respects true intonation and precision--particularly when the left hand
descends to its natural position--form a salient feature in the rapid
passages of his compositions. The intervals are ever varying--sometimes
in thirds, sometimes in sixths, eighths, and tenths--passing with
rapidity from one kind of interval to another--jumping incredible
distances--always in double notes--with unerring certainty and perfect
intonation. His hand was a geometrical compass which divided the
finger board with mathematical precision--his fingers falling exactly
where the intonation of the intervals of the double notes was to be
found. I do not speak of the varieties of bowing, by which he rendered
these difficulties more complicated, I merely look at the double-note
passages alone,--I therefore say, that these passages, which were
trifles to Paganini, will be impracticable to any other violinist
whomsoever he may be, if he would execute them with the same rapidity
and with the perfect intonation of the author. As a study, it is a
new world for the perseverance of young artists, the results of which
will be the acquisition of certainty, which only a small number of
performers possess, and the enlargement of the great resources of the

It may be asked why new difficulties are introduced into art; and it
may be remarked, with reason, that the aim of music is not to surprise
with marvellous feats, but to delight the feelings. This principle I
perfectly coincide with; yet I would observe, on the one hand, that
certain artists will never be prevented from endeavouring to overcome
difficulties, however apparently insurmountable, nor the public from
applauding the happy result of their efforts: on the other hand,
that the study of difficulties conduces to certainty in what is more
simple. If any violinist can play, with perfect intonation, and in
the prescribed time, the passages of Paganini’s concertos, he will
necessarily attain imperturbable certainty in ordinary music.

Is it imperative, I may ask, that these new and varied forms of
passages in Violin concertos are to be excluded? Admirable in
sentiment, as avowedly the concertos of Viotti are, their weakness
consists in the monotony of the rapid passages--and the same may be
said of nearly all other known concertos. Art is evidently limited in
this species of composition, to things which cannot be considered as
the last essay of the artist’s skill--more may be boldly attempted, and
that by varied means. Let the happy darings of Paganini be studied, and
it will be found that something is gained.



[A] “Osservazzioni su due Violini esposti nelle sale dell’ I. R.
Palazzo di Brera uno de’ quali di forma non commune.” Milan, 1832, in

[B] “Mémoire sur la construction des instruments à cordes et à archet,
lu à l’Academie des Sciences le 31 Mai, 1819.” Paris: Déterville. One
vol. in 8vo.

[C] “Nuova Teoria di Musica,” &c. Parma, 1812. 1 vol., in 8vo (page
214). Gervasoni adds that no teacher could have conducted such an
artist to the sublime height Paganini attained, and that nature alone
could have directed him.

[D] This circumstance in the life of Paganini made very little
impression upon me when he related it to me, as I was only interested
in his artistic career: later, this anecdote appeared important to
establish the chronological order of his life, as will be hereafter

[E] Gervasoni, “Nuova Teoria di Musica,” page 103.

[F] Gervasoni, “Nuova Teoria di Musica,” page 214.

[G] “Vita di Paganini di Genova, scritta ed illustrata da Giancarlo
Conestabile. Perugia, Tipografia di Vincenzo Bartilli, 1851.” 1 vol.,
in 8vo, 317 pages.

[H] Loc. cit.

[I] From the sentiments which induced the Grand Duchess to overlook his
insubordination, and from certain innuendoes which have escaped the pen
of M. Conestabile, inferences may be drawn, which delicacy dictates
should not be mentioned unreservedly.

[J] An artist of great merit, author of several operas, and who
continued the Requiem of Mozart.

[K] Who subsequently became principal Violin soloist at the Chapel of
the King of Saxony.

[L] Tre Capricci per il Violino, dedicati al esimio professore Nicolo
Paganini, da Carlo Lipinski. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1827.

[M] M. Conestabile places Paganini’s first visit to Naples and Sicily
immediately after the concerts at Rome during the Carnival, but I
have found no traces of his having done so in the musical journals,
the Italian newspapers, and the almanacks, of that period (1818).
It would be difficult to understand that, in a short time, Paganini
could have given several concerts at the Theatre Fondo, others at San
Carlo, at Naples, then at Palermo; and that he should have left Upper
Italy, Piedmont, and Tuscany, to return to Naples and Sicily in 1819.
I believe his first visit to Naples only took place in 1819. In the
months of December, 1818, and January, 1819, he gave four concerts
at the Theatre Carignano of Turin; in the February following he gave
concerts at Florence, and in June and July some at Naples.

[N] M. Fétis ought by this time to be aware that an artist suffers
from any of these difficulties in a less degree in England than in any
country of Europe; in no part of the world is the true merit or just
talent of a musician sooner discerned, or more justly rewarded, than in
England; yet, at the same time, it must be conceded that charlatanism,
both native and foreign, has long been rampant and held a sway, as
far as music is concerned, in this country, quite revolting to a true
artist.--_Translator’s Note._

[O] Paganini in seinem Reisewagen und Zimmer, etc. Aus einem
Reisejournale. Brunswick, 1830. 12mo.

[P] Published by Schott & Co., Mayence and London.

[Q] “Essai sur l’art de jouer du Violon, de Paganini.” Mayence e
Londres, Schott & Co.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Uncaptioned “Illustration” indicators represent decorative headpieces
and tailpieces; the two actual images are a portrait of Paganini and a
photograph of his violin.

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