NICCOLO PAGANINI – The Devil’s Violinist

NICCOLO PAGANINI - The Devil's Violinist

Niccolò Paganini, born October 27, 1782, is still considered by many the greatest violin virtuosi to have ever lived. While the 19th century saw several extraordinary violinists, the Italian Paganini was so beyond his peers that it was rumored by his contemporaries that he had sold his soul to the devil.

Paganini first learned to play the mandolin from his father at the age of five before moving on to the violin. He began composing at seven and, by the age of 12, he was performing publicly. At the age of sixteen, Paganini had a breakdown of sorts and disappeared into alcoholism. Eventually, with the aid of an unnamed female benefactor, he managed to quit drinking. Once sober, he sequestered himself away for three years and studied the violin obsessively. When he returned to the public eye at the age of 22, he became the first music superstar.Paganini was capable of playing three octaves across four strings in a hand span, a nearly impossible feat, even by today’s standards.

His flexibility and exceptionally long fingers have resulted in speculation that he may have had Marfan syndrome, a genetic mutation not identified until 1899 that results in elongated fingers and other unique traits. Others have conjectured that he had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, commonly know as Rubber Man Syndrome, and still other attribute his abilities to his instrument – dubbed The Cannon.In the early 1830’s Paganini’s health began to rapidly deteriorate. But 1834 he was no longer had the stamina to play his violin and he retired from public performance.

The great violinist to ever live eventually died in Nice on May 27, 1840.



  • Reply May 8, 2007

    Michael Ivnitsky

    “In the early 1830’s Paganini’s health began to rapidly deteriorate. But 1934 he was no longer had the stamina to play his violin and he retired from public performance. The great violinist to ever live died in Nice on May 27, 1840.”

    I think you mean 1834.
    Love yur blog!

  • Reply May 8, 2007

    J. Tithonus Pednaud

    Right you are. Thank you for the edit.

  • Reply May 9, 2007


    Paganini had an interesting relationship with the composer Berlioz. After snubbing him, he ended up giving Berlioz 20,000 francs, as an act of admiration. This money allowed Berlioz to do some of his best work.

  • Reply October 15, 2007


    He Also had a huge influence on the then 21 year old Franz Listz who attended one of Paganini’s concerts.

  • Reply December 4, 2007


    …. and yet I’m STILL trying to play even ONE of the 24 Caprices. Maybe I should write it off to being born with subspectacular (yes, I did make that word up) hands. How sad.

    I wonder what Itzhak Perlman’s excuse is? I mean… other than having polio as a kid and his parents having him do violin lessons instead of sports?

    Anyway, 10,000+ points for putting my dear friend Paganini in here. Made my night.

    – Elizabeth

  • Reply January 21, 2010

    Jojo T Klowne

    The Devil’ violinist kicks ASS!!!

  • Reply May 17, 2010


    yeah that’s cool stuff.. did you know? he’s my idol…

  • Reply July 23, 2010


    legend has it that after paganini made a pack w. the devil,
    he was only able to perform w. one violin.

  • Reply August 29, 2010


    There is a great song by Golden Earring which mentions Paganini. It is called Violins and it is on the To The Hilt album.

  • Reply October 7, 2011



  • Reply October 23, 2011

    No one

    AMAZING!! I have also read he came in contact with the red violin at some point but that could be false.

  • Reply November 20, 2011


    “The Cannon” AWESOME-EST name for a violin ever!! :D
    I find it spectacular that people speculate that this man must have been mutated to be able to do what he did! Hey, maybe he was! But just the fact that they think it is wonderful. I’d love to have a talent that makes people say “no way. she must not be an entirely normal human.” :D

  • Reply November 20, 2011


    I looked up both syndromes, because I got curious. Both have complications with weak hearts and blood vessels. I can tell you from experience playing a normal quick tempo violin tune is a workout, playing violin like Paganini did- and doing the math, into his early 50s- would be just about impossible for that long with a weak heart and blood vessels. Marfan’s syndrome often even involves low intelligence, so even less likely. There may be another mutation involved, but it looks like he was just that good.
    But it’s still awesome that people think he must not have been a “normal” human. :D

  • Reply January 11, 2012

    John John

    Hello all

    Nice blog…

    I consider myself very fortunate to have had the grandfather I had. He played awesome violin/fiddle. He knew classic material across to Irish and east coast jigs.
    He would also call at square dances. His instrument- a Paganini.
    It is a beautiful instrument that came into my possession after his passing. My grandfather died at age 73 in 1986 and had the same violin for as long as anyone can recall. The violin has a burnt/embossed semi-arched imprint reading Paganini back side at neck base.

    I wish I could offer more insight into the instrument or into Paganini’s legacy but I cannot. Although I am a musician I do not play string instruments; I am percussionist with carpal tunnel. However I wish I could and certainly appreciate and admire those that can.

    I am curious to know the value of such an instrument. I would like to re-string the violin and the bow but really don’t want to disturb it if it is not recommended.

    Can anyone please offer some indication of value and feedback on refurbishing do’s and dont’s?

    Cheers. “Rosin up yer bow”

  • Reply February 7, 2012

    Anna Hanson

    I stumbled across this excellent man’s name: Niccolò Paganini and never really forgot it and so when I came to this website, I discovered more about him that I had ever read. I wonder if it’s really true he sold his soul to the Devil? If he had, that is quite a pity since we wouldn’t be able to listen to him in Heaven except I think that God wouldn’t truly let him play, it would hurt his ears too much to be certain. This man although giving into drinking was a fabulous violinist. To be sure, he could have been so much more of hit now than he once did, he spent his time well here on earth fiddling the way nobody has tried to do since.

  • Reply February 11, 2012

    Anthony Gilmore

    Paganini’s music is quite extraordinary. He extended the whole compass of violin playing at his time for the benefit of all succeeding generations. His music is full of haunting themes of great pathos interspersed with dazzling scale passages and arpeggios and natural and artificial harmonics which will be new to the ears of many listeners. Sit back and be transported by the kind of music you probably haven’t heard before. It will be an exhilarating experience for you. Buon appetito. A.G.

    February 11th 2012

  • Reply October 6, 2012

    Sarah Gilbert

    wow! that’s just ya wow.

  • Reply October 31, 2012


    Regardless of the myth, the man was a musu]ical genius. We are all lucky to still have his legacy to admire.

  • […] She plays them like a violin… and she is Paganini! […]

  • Reply September 3, 2013


    Someone commented: legend has it that after paganini made a pack w. the devil,
    he was only able to perform w. one violin.

    Well, most people ARE only able to perform with one violin!

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