Classical Concert - Paganini

Niccolo Paganini was the first musical superstar, a virtuoso violinist whose fame preceded him wherever he played, all over Europe, in the first half of the twentieth century. He courted his superstardom, and, like many of today’s celebrities, was loved and loathed in equal measure, in his case because of the precocious sounds he emitted from his violin, nicknamed ‘Il Cannone’ (The Cannon) for its explosive qualities. He also enjoyed the good life, of wine, women and gambling. He was, in many ways, the prototype rock star. If they’d invented TVs by then, you feel he might have thrown one out of his hotel window.

It is impossible to say just how good a player he was, as, clearly, no recordings exist. But he was famous for his virtuosity and trickery: he could mimic birds and other musical instruments on his violin; his long fingers made it easy for him to perform never-seen-before double-stops, parallel octaves and left-hand pizzicato. If he hadn’t been so keen on performing, who knows what great works Paganini might have left us, but as it is his legacy is a considerable oeuvre. Most influential, and recorded, are his 24 caprices for solo violin, which have inspired a vast number of variations (for example Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of number 24, used as the South Bank Show music). Paganini, however good a violinist he was, is said to have preferred the guitar, which he used, legend has it, to woo many of his sexual conquests. Tonight, on the 225th anniversary of his birth, David Way plays a selection of his works. DL

Niccolo Paganini: prototype rock star

Westgate Chapel
When? 7.30pm
How Much? £7.50/£5.50
(t) 01273 472172/564824.