Niccolò (or Nicolò) Paganini (27 October 1782 – 27 May 1840) was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He was one of the most celebrated violin virtuosi of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. His Caprice No. 24 in A minor, Op. 1, is among the best known of his compositions, and has served as an inspiration for many prominent composers.
Paganini composed his own works to play exclusively in his concerts, all of which had profound influences on the evolution of violin techniques. His 24 Caprices were probably composed in the period between 1805 to 1809, while he was in the service of the Baciocchi court. Also during this period, he composed the majority of the solo pieces, duo-sonatas, trios and quartets for the guitar.
Paganini’s compositions were technically imaginative, and the timbre of the instrument was greatly expanded as a result of these works. Sounds of different musical instruments and animals were often imitated.However, his works were criticized for lacking characteristics of true polyphonism, as pointed out by Eugène Ysaÿe. Yehudi Menuhin, on the other hand, suggested that this might have been the result of his reliance on the guitar (in lieu of the piano) as an aid in composition. The orchestral parts for his concertos were often polite, unadventurous, and clearly supportive of the soloist. In this, his style is consistent with that of other Italian composers such as Paisiello, Rossini and Donizetti, who were influenced by the guitar-song milieu of Naples during this period.
Paganini was also the inspiration of many prominent composers. Both “La Campanella” and the A minor caprice (Nr. 24) have been an object of interest for a number of composers. Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Boris Blacher, Andrew Lloyd Webber, George Rochberg and Witold Lutosławski, among others, wrote well-known variations on these themes.