Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840)


01The Paganini Inheritance20120702

Donald Macleod explores Paganini's entrepeneurial side as the violinist tours Europe.

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.


Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers.

Rumours that Paganini is touched by the devil never fail to whip up hysteria amongst his audiences, but also prove to be an unwelcome burden on his career. Donald Macleod explores this dark side of the violinist's persona, and also tries to uncover the truth behind his 'lost years', a supposed prison sentence for heinous crimes.


Donald Macleod considers the reality behind Paganini's reputation as a fickle lover.

He's remembered as a fickle lover, but has Paganini's impetuous side masked a more caring and compassionate man within? Donald Macleod searches beyond the rumours for the truth, and also explores more music by the many greats who were inspired to rework the violinist's music in their own compositions.

Variations on a Theme from Rossini's La Cenerentola

Salvatore Accardo (violin), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Charles Dutoit (conductor)

DG 423 717-2 t5

Grand Sonata - First movement: Allegro risoluto


Marco Tamayo (guitar)

NAXOS 8.557598 t1

Carnaval de Venise


Zino Francescatti (violin)

BRIDGE 9125 t4

Caprice no.12

James Ehnes (violin)

ONYX 4044 t12

Schumann: Etudes concertantes sur un theme de Paganini op.10 nos 1, 2, 6

Nikolai Petrov (piano)

OLYMPIA OCD144 t2, 3, 7.


Donald Macleod and Andrew McGee consider Paganini's reputation as the virtuoso's virtuoso.

Unrivalled genius or grotesque showman? Donald Macleod and violinist Andrew McGee explore Paganini's reputation as the virtuoso's virtuoso and we hear how today's players rise to the challenge of performing the works tailored so brilliantly to the unique abilities of their creator. Plus more music created in Paganini's wake, this time from a piano virtuoso of the modern era.

Caprice no.5

James Ehnes (violin)

ONYX 4044 t5

I Palpiti

Maxim Vengerov (violin), Itmar Golan (piano)

TELDEC 9031 77351-2 t2

String Quartet no.2

Amati Ensemble String Quartet


Caprices nos. 8, 19, 9

ONYX 4044 t8, 19, 9

Hamelin: Etude no.3 after Paganini-Liszt

Marc-André Hamelin (piano)


05 LAST20120706

Donald Macleod charts Paganini's complex relationship with his own body.

Could a rare genetic disorder have contributed to Paganini's extraordinary dexterity? Donald Macleod charts the violinist's complex relationship with his own body, and also his preference for unproven medicines which left him with serious after-effects.

Moses Fantasie

Ilya Gringolts (violin), Irina Ryumina (piano)

BIS CD999 t12-16

Ghiribizzi no.37, 38, 22

Marco Tamayo (guitar)

NAXOS 8 557598 t7-9

Sonata per la Grand Viola

David Aaron Carpenter (viola), Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor)


Lutoslawski: Paganini Variations

Peter Jablonski (piano), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor)

DECCA 4362392 t5


Ilya Gringolts (violin), Irina Ryumina (piano

BIS CD999 t11

Chopin: Souvenir de Paganini

Peter Katin (piano)