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Nicolo Paganini: His Life and Work by Stratton

But his real teacher was Gasparo Ghiretti


There are several versions of this story, and much uncertainty respecting some points. Rolla was chamber _virtuoso_, and director of the concerts at the Court of Parma. Paer, whose first opera was produced in 1789, was at this time in great request at Venice, where he brought out a succession of operas. In 1796 he may have been in Parma, for his "Griselda" was produced there that year. Paganini, at some time or other, doubtless did profit by Paer's friendly assistance; but his real teacher was Gasparo Ghiretti, chamber musician to Prince Ferdinand of Parma, and the master of Paer. Ghiretti was a violinist, as were nearly all the Italian composers of that period. Under Ghiretti, Paganini went through a systematic course of study in counterpoint and composition, devoting himself to the instrumental style. He must, about the same time, have received violin lessons from Rolla, though he afterwards refused to acknowledge that he had been his pupil. Fetis tells of discussions between Rolla and Paganini concerning the innovations the latter was attempting, for he was always striving after new effects. As he could but imperfectly execute what he aimed at, these eccentric flights did not commend themselves to Rolla, whose taste and style were of a more severe order. Of Paganini's work in composition little appears to be known. Anders states that Paer when in Parma devoted several hours daily to Paganini; and at the end of the fourth month entrusted him with a composition of a _duo_, in which Nicolo succeeded to the complete satisfaction of his master. Paganini may also at that time have sketched, if he did not complete, the Studies, or Caprices, Op. 1.

In 1797 the father took the boy from Parma, and set out with him on a tour through Lombardy. Concerts were given in Milan, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, and Leghorn.

The young artist achieved an extraordinary reputation; the father took possession of the more material rewards of art. The "golden dreams" were in process of realisation! Returning to Genoa, young Paganini finished the composition of his Twenty-four Studies, which were of such excessive difficulty that he could not play them. He would try a single passage over in a hundred ways, working for ten or eleven hours at a stretch, and then would come the inevitable collapse. He was still under the stern domination of his father, and his spirit must have chafed under the bondage. His own ardour was sufficient to carry his labours to the verge of exhaustion, and he needed no spur as an incentive to exertion. In all directions save that of music his education was utterly neglected. The moral side of his nature was allowed to grow wild. There was the restraining influence of a mother's love, but there was little else. It might indeed be said that, musically, Paganini was self-educated; but that one of the world's great geniuses should lack the intellectual and moral training that go to make the complete man was sad in the extreme. Paganini's was a nature warped; on the one side phenomenal power, on the other bodily suffering, intellectual and spiritual atrophy. But more of this when we turn from his career to the man himself.

As the youth grew older the spirit of revolt arose. He must and would escape from the tyranny of his avaricious father. But how? A way soon offered itself. At Lucca, the festival of St. Martin, held each November, was an event of such importance, musically, that it drew visitors from all parts of Italy. As the November of 1798 drew near, young Paganini besought his father's permission to attend the festival, but his request was met by a point-blank refusal. The importunities of the youth, aided by the prayers of the mother, at length prevailed, and in care of the elder brother afterwards Dr. Paganini (?)--Nicolo was allowed to leave home.


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