Paganini in Vienna
By 1828 virtually no other musician in Europe was considered so illustrious, yet so mysterious, as was Niccolo Paganini. This musical genius was born in Genoa, Italy, on 27th October 1782, and is generally regarded as the greatest violin virtuoso of all time. His contemporaries were certain that the origin of his talent was in part divine, in part diabolical. He was able to produce hitherto unknown sound effects and feats of amazing virtuosity on his violin. It is no wonder that rumours spread stating that Paganini had sold his soul to the devil. His attractive appearance and his brilliant technique made him a legend in his own lifetime. „I heard an angel sing in Paganinis Adagio“, said (the great Austrian composer) Franz Schubert.
How Paganini’s 14 Concerts Transformed Vienna
Paganini began his (musical) conquest of Europe at the invitation of Prince Metternich; in 1828 Niccolo Paganini spent four months in Vienna. His concert on 29th March in the Great Redoutensaal was his first concert given on foreign soil. One day later, Vienna was transformed: shop windows displayed gloves and pasta (better: everything from gloves to pasta) "a la Paganini", walking sticks were embellished with his portrait. Vienna was soon in the throes of mass hysteria, and everyone wanted to hear Paganini play. His first five concerts – the five which had been originally planned – took place in the candle-lit, festive Great Redoutensaal. All told, Paganini would give fourteen concerts in Vienna – seven in the Great Redoutensaal, two in the Imperial Theatre (Burgtheater), and five in the Theatre at the Kärntnertor (Kärntnertortheater). With his final ‚Addio a Vienna‘ on 24th July 1828 Paganini took leave of the city and continued his peaceful musical conquest of Europe. Prior to this the Emporer elevated him to the rank of ‚k.k. Kammer-Virtuose‘ (Imperial and Royal Chamber Virtuoso) and presented him with a golden casket.
Paganini’s Compositions were Inspirational for Other Great Masters
Paganini’s works inspired many other great musicians: Franz Liszt, moved by Paganini’s virtuosity, was inspired to create new possibilities for the piano in his "Six great Etudes after Paganini", Robert Schumann adapted Paganini’s Caprices for the piano, Johann Strauss played waltzes a la Paganini (Opus 11), Johannes Brahms composed variations on the 24th Caprice for the piano, and the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov wrote a Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.
Works composed by Paganini in Vienna
Included among Paganini’s works composed during his stay in Vienna are:
Violin Concerto in E-flat Major, "I Palpiti" Variations, "Maestosa Sonata Sentimentale" – composed in homage to the Emperor and including musical allusions to the Imperial Hymn of Austria; many smaller compositions for chamber music, "Capriccio con Variazioni" of Mozart’s "La ci darem la mano" from the opera "Don Giovanni", as well as other compositions.