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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 224 pages of information about Great Violinists And Pianists.

The impression made by Paganini was something more than that of a great, even the greatest, violinist.  It was as if some demoniac power lay behind the human, prisoned and dumb except through the agencies of music, but able to fill expression with faint, far-away cries of passion, anguish, love, and aspiration—­echoes from the supernatural and invisible.  His hearers forgot the admiration due to the wonderful virtuoso, and seemed to listen to voices from another world.  The strange rumors that were current about him, Paganini seems to have been not disinclined to encourage, for, mingled with his extraordinary genius, there was an element of charlatanism.  It was commonly reported that his wonderful execution on the G-string was due to a long imprisonment, inflicted on him for the assassination of a rival in love, during which he had a violin with one string only.  Paganini himself writes that, “At Vienna one of the audience affirmed publicly that my performance was not surprising, for he had distinctly seen, while I was playing my variations, the devil at my elbow, directing my arm and guiding my bow.  My resemblance to the devil was a proof of my origin.”  Even sensible people believed that Paganini had some uncanny and unlawful secret which enabled him to do what was impossible for other players.  At Prague he actually printed a letter from his mother to prove that he was not the son of the devil.  It was not only the perfectly novel and astonishing character of his playing, but to a large extent his ghostlike appearance, which caused such absurd rumors.  The tall, skeleton-like figure, the pale, narrow, wax-colored face, the long, dark, disheveled hair, the mysterious expression of the heavy eye, made a weirdly strange ensemble.  Heine tells us in “The Florentine Nights” that only one artist had succeeded in delineating the real physiognomy of Paganini:  “A deaf and crazy painter, called Lyser, has in a sort of spiritual frenzy so admirably portrayed by a few touches of his pencil the head of Paganini that one is dismayed and moved to laughter at the faithfulness of the sketch!  ‘The devil guided my hand,’ said the deaf painter to me, with mysterious gesticulations and a satirical yet good-natured wag of the head, such as he was wont to indulge in when in the midst of his genial tomfoolery.”

II.

Nicolo Paganini was born at Genoa on the night of February 18, 1784, of parents in humbly prosperous circumstances, his father being a ship-broker, and, though illiterate in a general way, a passionate lover of music and an amateur of some skill.  The father soon perceived the child’s talent, and caused him to study so severely that it not only affected his constitution, but actually made him a tolerable player at the age of six years.  The elder Paganini’s knowledge of music was not sufficient to carry the lad far in mastering the instrument, but the extraordinary precocity shown so interested Signor Corvetto, the

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