Niccolo Paganini was one of the greatest violinists ever to live, and a prolific composer of works for the instrument. Born in Italy in 1782, by the time of his La Scala debut in 1813 he was living a rock-star lifestyle, touring Italy and Europe extensively. He was also plagued by disease and mental health struggles for much of his adult life. By 1818 he had written what is now his most famous composition – 24 Caprices – which remain some of the violin’s most virtuosic showpieces.
Recently, thanks to a collection of Perlman sonatas and concertos my parents gave me, I’ve been turned on to Paganini’s compositions for violin and classical guitar (Paganini was also a first-rate guitarist and wrote many works for both). In particular, his Sonata Concertata, which I’ve been fawning over the past couple of days, is a very nice duet – full of subtle and lovely melodies that interweave the two instruments beautifully. It’s one of the first complete works he wrote, dated 1803.
I’ve written plenty before about Paganini – Suzuki Book Two includes “The Witch’s Dance,” a dumbed-down excerpt from his showpiece “La Streghe” (the witch), which I enjoy playing. That work is a theme and variations style composition. Additionally, his first and fifth violin concertos were some of the earliest violin music I learned to love, and I’ve long dreamed of tackling some of his works. The first concerto is widely played by violinists the world over, as are many of his other compositions. One of the foremost violin competitions in the world is the annual Paganini Competition in his hometown of Genoa.
Yesterday I downloaded some sheet music to the Sonata Concertata – it’s in A Major, and while the piece looks fundamentally possible for me to work on, if I do decide to pursue it the music will be challenging. There’s also the problem of having no classical guitarist with whom to practice. I guess I have to start somewhere!
Thanks for reading.