Born in Italy on October 27, 1782, Niccolò Paganini was a natural violinist. In his early childhood, he was tutored by his father on the art of the violin. But this could not satiate him for long. He quickly surpassed all that his father could teach him, so he was sent to study violin with the best teachers in his area of Genoa. It was rapidly becoming apparent that Paganini was a prodigy.
At only 11 years old, Paganini held his first recorded performance in public. And from there he only went up. At 15 years old, he began to tour Lombardy with his father. With each and every performance he was becoming more and more known. However, this did generate odd happenstances involving him. Namely, a rumor about him that the devil was the source of his passionate playing. His reputation also doubled over itself, as he was given a coveted Guernari violin because of his inspirational playing. This would go on to become his preference over violins from other makers.
From 1801 to 1807, Paganini wrote the 24 Caprices, which are arguably his most famous compositions. These pieces are some of the most complex pieces ever composed for the violin. But his prowess of the violin did not extend to his personal life. He was a frequent gambler, alcoholic, and had an exaggerated affinity for women. However, he would go on to clean up his act. In addition, he was appointed to be the court violinist by Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, with whom he had found favor.
Paganini’s entire technique was one of experimentation. He incorporated innovative methods into his playing style, which required new finger placement techniques and new ways to tune the violin, amongst other things. He was also an extremely impassioned performer, pulling off tricks whilst performing such as severing the strings of his violin to continue playing with the strings that remained.
Many even consider Paganini to be the greatest violinist who ever lived, because of the raw emotion and technique that he blended together in perfect harmony. But legends do not live forever. On May 27, 1840, Paganini died at age 57 after wrestling with bouts of illness. And though he may be gone, his contribution to the musical world will stretch on forever.