of the 20th century
Among the legends featured in the "ART of the VIOLIN:"
US TV Premiere: Great Performances
on PBS/WNET13, NY- December 11, 2001
(Check local listings)
He started it all...
About "The Art of Violin"
Other GREAT PERFORMANCES
Copland's America with Jonathan Sheffer and the Eos Orchestra
Don Giovanni Unmasked with
3 Mo' Tenors
Joshua Bell in
West Side Story Suite
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He was perhaps the first embodiment of the celebrity performer. Today, he is still thought to be the greatest violinist who ever lived. He was such a sensational performer, the likes of whom the concert-going public of the 19th century had never seen or heard before, that legends were woven around him in his lifetime. One was that he had struck a deal with the devil in exchange for a violin technique that few at the time thought humanly possible. Although he outwardly scoffed at the idea, neither did he hide his delight in the public adulation created by his demonic playing: "I am as ugly as sin, yet all I have to do is play my violin and women fall at my feet."
Paganini was born in Genoa, Italy in 1782. His parents were poor but had high dreams for their son who by age nine could play the violin before the public. He did not disappoint. He began touring Italy at age fifteen, launching a career as composer and performer that brought him both fame and fortune. He died in 1840, happily famous and wealthy but unhappily dissipated by a dissolute lifestyle - then, as now, an unintended consequence of celebrity. He was not, to be sure, the first violin virtuoso but he set the musical standard by which everyone aspiring for the appellation is judged.
And by this standard, the virtuosi of the 20th century featured in the "The Art of Violin" (Kreisler, Heifetz, Elman, Szigeti, Oistrakh, Milstein, Francescatti, Menuhin, Stern are among the names that readily come to mind) are, all of them - as are the virtuosi of the 21st century (Perlman, Gitlis, Haendel and Hahn) who here celebrate the universal magic of their music and the individuality of their sound - Paganini's rightful musical progeny.
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(Photos of Heifetz and Francescatti, courtesy WNET/13)
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