Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


Paganini, Berlioz Live Concert Webcast and a Virtual Museum Tour

Globe with eighth note

Get ready for a whirlwind of a concert!

On Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 3:00 PM EST (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a live concert webcast.  The concert will feature Augustin Hadelich playing Paganini’s First Violin Concerto.

Here’s just a taste of the violinist’s Paganini flare:  Augustin Hadelich playing Paganini Caprice No. 5.

The second half of the concert will feature the wild ride of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie FantastiqueJader Bignamini, the DSO’s new music director, will conduct.  You can see the concert here.

Paganini and Berlioz met in Paris, and became regular correspondents.  Both enjoyed guitar music, and Paganini gave Berlioz a guitar.  Both signed the guitar, which still exists and is at the Musée de la Musique in Paris. [1]   Berlioz donated the guitar to the museum when he was its curator.  And here it is:

Photograph of guitar signed by Paganini and BerliozCloseup photograph of signatures of Paganini and Berlioz on guitar

You can take a fascinating virtual tour of the museum at this link.  You can even download a museum map to facilitate your tour. Click the pictures; any picture with a compass on it will allow you to wander through the museum and view the exhibits.  Other pictures will provide slideshows with musical clips.  Enjoy!



  1. Niccolò Paganini,,

Image attributions:  Globe with eighth note, C. Gallant, 2019.  Paganini, Berlioz guitar, Musée de la musique, Paris / A Giordan – [Public domain] via,_Paris_around_1830.jpg.


Haiku Wednesday:  Paganini, the Devil’s Violinist


Did he sell his soul?
Did he have extra fingers?
No; he was that good.

They swooned when they saw
His flying fingers and heard
Songs played from the soul.

Niccolò Paganini (27 October 1782-27 May 1840) was the premier violinist of his time and an outstanding composer.  His 24 Caprices for Solo Violin have been the inspiration and bedevilment of generations of violinists.  And that was his Opus 1!  He composed solos, duos, trios, and quartets, including works for the violin, viola, and guitar.  He is also well known for his works on violin technique.

Although he was employed at various times in his career by nobility, most of the time Paganini was a freelance virtuoso.  He performed his own works in concerts, and his fame spread far beyond his native Italy.  His themes have been used by numerous composers as the basis for sets of variations.  His work has also been incorporated into performances by guitarists far outside the classical realm, namely rock guitarists Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai.

Ever the showman, it is said that Paganini intentionally used worn strings in performance so that they would break, at which point he would continue playing on the remaining strings as if nothing had happened.  Paganini even wrote a violin piece to be played on only one string. (Jazz fans: check out the video of bass player Victor Wooten playing with a broken string–like a boss. String breaks at about 2:45.)

Paganini’s appearance only added to the mesmerizing effect of his playing.  Tall, gaunt, dressed in black, many suspected that the only way one could play so rapidly and so well was through a pact with the devil.  But a human source of his great flexibility and appearance is more likely.  It is believed that Paganini had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or Marfan syndrome, a symptom of which is abnormal flexibility of the joints.  But a period during which he is said to have played up to 15 hours a day may also have had something to do with it.

Here is Jascha Heifetz playing Caprice No 24.

You can hear all 24 caprices here.

Here is Paganini’s La Campanella (Violin Concerto No 2 in B Minor, Op. 7, third movement).

Here is Paganini’s Duetto Amoroso for violin and guitar.

Want to hear a 1615 viola?  Here is Paganini’s Sonata per Gran Viol played on the Amati viola “La Stauffer.”


Nicolo Paganini: His Life and Work, Stephen Samuel Stratton. NY: Scribner’s, 1907.


Image attribution:  Niccolò Paganini  by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons