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Classical Composers A-Z: Nicolo Paganini

"Many people thought he was in league with the Devil, partly from his sinister appearance, partly from his skill, which they thought no ordinary mortal could possess. His fingers were abnormally flexible...''

Peter Wintersgill presents a potted biography of Nicolo Paganini.

Born
27th October, 1782, in Genoa.

Father
Antonio, porter, gave him his first violin lessons.

Mother
Teresa.

Family
Three sisters and two brothers.

Childhood
Made to study hard by father. Nearly died at six from measles.

Adolescence
Made concert tour at 13, when he started to compose.

Adult Life
Lived for three years with a Tuscan lady, took up the guitar and wrote some works for it.

Most of his works were for violin, for himself to play, to show off his skill, which was considerable. He was Musical Director to Napolean's sister, Princess of Lucca, from 1805 - 1813.

He commissioned Berlioz to write a work for viola, Harold In Italy, but he never played it.

From 1810 to 1828 he toured Italy, later on Paris and London as well, giving concerts of his own music, written to show off his own skill.

His works include 24 caprices for violin, a theme from one of which was used by Chopin and others in variations. He himself wrote Variations on God Save the Queen, also on a Theme of Rossini. He wrote six violin concertos.

Many people thought he was in league with the Devil, partly from his sinister appearance, partly from his skill, which they thought no ordinary mortal could possess. His fingers were abnormally flexible.

He led a life of dissipation, which played havoc with his health; from 1834 he appeared little in public.

He died 27th May, 1840, in Nice aged 58 from either cancer of the larynx or mercury poisoning, which was used to treat his supposed syphilis.

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