Music From Heaven, Paid For In Hell

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Violin virtuoso Nicola Loud unravels fact from fiction in the life of the nineteenth century's most brilliant violinist, Nicoló Paganini.

Controversy was violinist Nicoló Paganini's constant companion, his adventures worthy of any tabloid today.

Never too far from a scandal, he was alleged to be a murderer, a seducer, even a convict.

A self confessed gambler and an accomplished womaniser, his violin playing was so breathtaking it literally defied belief.

In the absence of logical explanation, he was accused of selling his soul to the devil in return for such a gift.

Recognising the value of his notoriety, he did little to dispel the lies and the legend quickly outgrew the man.

It was said Paganini's destiny to be the greatest violinist in the world was determined by an angel who came to his mother in a dream.

In death Satan's shadow reappeared.

After his body was refused interment on consecrated ground, it was lodged temporarily in an abandoned leper house.

In a supernatural twist, passing fishermen reported hearing the eerie strains of a violin.

This incredible man has been an inspiration to musicians for almost two hundred years.

As a composer his invention on the violin is still the yardstick by which violinists are measured.

The 24 Caprices is a set of works for solo violin of such incredible difficulty, composer Robert Schumann called them, the turning point in the history of virtuosity".

Among his admirers, Liszt, Chopin, Brahms, Rachmaninov, and Andrew Lloyd-Webber have used themes from them as the basis for their own works.

Without a spin doctor or publicist in sight, Paganini was a prototype for today's pop icons.

A gaunt, black suited figure, with wild hair flowing to his shoulders, he cut an unearthly figure on stage.

His talent so wondrous that women fainted when they heard him and he was mobbed in the streets.

Yet behind the fame, the riches and the glory, his life was a mixture of tragedy and comedy, of highs and deep depressions, meanness and generosity.

Perpetually unlucky in love, he died in a foreign land at the age of only 57.

Violin virtuoso Nicola Loud's fascination with Paganini began as a child, when she saw him illustrated in a storybook, dressed in black with a red devil hovering behind him.

In the programme she unravels fact from fiction and garners opinion on his legacy from two of this century's violin virtuosos, Vanessa Mae and James Ehnes.

With more than 40 international platinum awards for her recordings, and sales of some ten million albums, Vanessa Mae is a superstar.

Apart from sharing the same birthday as Paganini, she first recorded his music before she reached her teens.

James Ehnes has recently recorded the 24 Caprices for the second time and talks about how the technical innovations created by Paganini work.

Biographer Andrew McGee, and Charles Beare, a world authority on string instruments, shed light on Paganini's life and the qualities of his beloved Guarnerius violin, popularly known as The Cannon.

Nicola Loud tells the story of the 19th century's most brilliant violinist Nicoló Paganini"