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Playing: Humoresque in G major op 10 no 2 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
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The Paganini Inheritance

Duration:
1 hour
First broadcast:
Monday 02 July 2012

He was ever the rock star of his day with his long hair, on-stage histrionics and an eye for young girls. But Paganini was undoubtedly a genius too, a violinist with no equals, and with a streak of compassion all too often overlooked.

Donald Macleod unmasks the real Paganini with the help of biographer Andrew McGee, who has dedicated himself to separating myth from reality in the musician's life story. There's certainly no shortage of intrigue, not least the persistent rumours that the violinist was some how in league with the devil. Gossip that he had been imprisoned for eight years fuelled the flames and dogged his career, as did the mystique surrounding his 'secret', supposedly a simple key to his technique known only to Paganini and one other.

But the image of Paganini as nothing more than a heartless egotist turns out to be wide of the mark. We find him writing longingly to his only son while on tour, performing charity concerts around Europe, and gifting a large amount of money to Berlioz when the Frenchman falls on hard times. And there's also the deep impression he makes on the greatest musicians of his day, the likes of Liszt, Schumann and Chopin. We hear their own musical tributes to Paganini, and also those of their successors such as Witold Lutoslawski whose twentieth-century homage to one of the famous violin Caprices is every bit the match of Rachmaninoff's more famous offering.

The week begins with an image of Paganini the entrepeneur. We find him pocketing staggering amounts of money for his concert performances, and even creating a Paganini 'brand' which usurps a Viennese fashion for everything giraffe related.

Music Played

5 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
  • Image for Nicolò Paganini
    00:00

    Nicolò Paganini 24 Caprices Op.1 for violin solo

    Performer: James EHNES - Violin

    TELARC, CD-80398

  • Image for Nicolò Paganini

    Nicolò Paganini Variations on 'God save the King' vers. for violin solo

    Performer: Ruggiero RICCI - Violin (Violin)

    ETCETERA, KTC-1038

  • Image for Nicolò Paganini

    Nicolò Paganini Sonata and variations on "Pria ch'io l'impegno" for violin and orchestra from Weigl's L'am

    Conductor: Charles DUTOIT Performer: Salvatore ACCARDO - Violin Performer: London Philharmonic Orchestra

    DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON, 423-717-2

  • Image for Nicolò Paganini

    Nicolò Paganini Introduction and variations on "Nel cor piu non mi sento" from Paisiello's "La Molinara" O

    Performer: Ilya Gringolts (violin) - Violin

    BIS, CD-999

  • Image for Nicolò Paganini

    Nicolò Paganini Concerto no. 1 in D major Op.6 for violin and orchestra

    Conductor: Lovro von MATACIC Performer: Michael RABIN - Violin Performer: Philharmonia Orchestra

    Testament, SBT6 1471

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