From Bach to The Boy Paganini

In this past week’s lesson, as we have for months, Teacher and I played the Bach Concerto for Two Violins, the final piece in Suzuki Book Four, together.  Happily, I did better than ever, despite having a rather lackluster practice record the week before. When we finished, she said, “I know you’ll keep working on the Bach, but you’re ready to move on.”

I expected to move on to Suzuki Book Five, but instead Teacher pulled out another book – Solos for Young Violinists.  She said she thought I might like to take a break from Bach and instead began introducing me to a fun piece called The Boy Paganini, a fantasia by Edward Mollenhauer.

I’ve been doing some research online, but I can’t find much background on the piece.  Mollenhauer was a violinist and composer born in Prussia in 1827.  He immigrated to the United States in 1853 after achieving renown in Europe.  Wikipedia says he did so to escape conscription.  The Boy Paganini has a companion piece called The Infant Paganini, which is still known and played as well.  Wikipedia says Mollenhauer is also known for String Quartets, which I have yet to investigate.  Mollenhauer lived a long life, dying in 1914.

With the rest of my Suzuki tunes I have been able to listen to them for a good while before attempting to play them – getting a feel for the music and how it’s supposed to go, almost memorizing the melodies.  With The Boy Paganini, I feel like I am playing catch-up since I heard it for the first time when Teacher played it for me Tuesday!  Fortunately, there are many great videos on Youtube of talented youngsters and teachers playing this thing, so I have no shortage of inspiration.

I can say that as I’ve started wading through the piece that The Boy Paganini is, for me, all kinds of difficult.  It’s replete with left hand pizzicato, four string slurs/chords, fifth position, harmonics, and challenging double stops. But though the piece is daunting, I have worked through many pieces in Book Four that felt at first like they were totally out of my league.  I made it through them, so these days I’m starting to realize I can take on music like this.  It just takes time and practice – and a good teacher!

The Bach Double took me over a year.

We’ll see if The Boy Paganini has become a man by the time I make it through this one.  Three days in I am already having fun starting to watch him grow up.

Thanks for reading.



  1. Julie Libel · · Reply

    Love it!! I doubt if he’ll grow up before you master it!!

  2. Jorge · · Reply

    So how did it go? I felt so overwhelmed the first time I heard it and was given to me, but recently finished working on it. Such a beautiful little piece. I never thought myself doing left-hand pizzicato, chords, eighths, etc. Our teachers absolutely knew what they were doing when they gave it to us. I also started it after finishing Book 4 haha.

    1. Thanks Jorge – I know exactly what you mean – left hand Pizzicato – who’dofthunkit! It’s a blast, still playing it – the 5th position moments are a struggle and beyond just hitting the notes trying to make it sound decent is where I’m at with it. Thanks for reading!

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