Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840)
M. Gauci, lithograph published by C. Huttmandel, 19th c., 180 x 240.
Collection: Photographic collection of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw [F.3440].
Niccolò Paganini—a famous Italian violin virtuoso and composer, responsible for a modern violin-playing technique. He was regarded as the foremost virtuoso of his day. In 1829, he came to Warsaw, giving ten concerts at the Teatr Narodowy. Paganini’s playing, his breathtaking technique in the new style, fabulous tonal effects on the violin and extraordinary physical appearance caused a sensation among Warsaw audiences. In the celebrated Italian’s violin music, a considerable impression was made on Chopin by both the innovativeness of his style and the type of experimentation, as well as the wonderful virtuosic technique, displaying unprecedented possibilities. Paganini’s approach confirmed Chopin in his intention to devote himself, as a composer, to his beloved piano alone. Fryderyk was increasingly convinced that what could be produced from the piano, making use of its specific qualities, the secrets of its sound and its unique expressive possibilities, could prove much more valuable than the elaboration of a style which was equally suited to all genres. Chopin’s presence at the famous violinist’s concerts left an enduring mark in the form of an untitled work posthumously published as Variants in A major (Souvenir de Paganini), based on the theme of the Neapolitan song ‘Oh, mamma, mamma, cara’. Paganini played this melody, as part of his Carnaval de Venise, in his final Warsaw concert, on 14 July. Chopin did not attach any importance to his piece. Preserved by a friend, it was not published until 1881, by the periodical Echo Muzyczne.