Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram

Niccolo Paganini the violin virtuoso was so good that people thought he sold his soul to the devil

Goran Blazeski

Born in 1782, in Genoa, Niccolo Paganini was an expert Italian violinist, guitarist, and composer.

He was only five years old when he started learning the mandolin from his father and when he was about 7-years old he moved to the violin.

He was the most celebrated virtuoso violinist of his time and is still considered by many the greatest violin virtuosi to have ever lived.

Niccolo Paganini became the world’s first international superstar of the violin beginning when he was 22.

There were many extraordinary violinists in the 19th century but Paganini was so beyond his peers that it was rumored by his contemporaries that he had sold his soul to the devil.

Niccolo Paganini (1819), by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Niccolo Paganini (1819), by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

He was only 11 years old when he played his first public performance in Genoa and at the age of 13 he was sent to study with famous violinist and teacher Alessandro Rolla.

Alessandro Rolla thought that Paganini was so skilled that there was nothing he could teach him and he decided to send him to his own teacher, Ferdinando Paer.

Paganini spent some time with Ferdinando Paer but again because of his abilities he was passed off to Paer’s teacher, Gasparo Ghiretti.

When Paganini was 16 years old he had a breakdown and succumbed to alcoholism but he managed to quit drinking with the help of an unnamed female benefactor.



Saint Wolfgang and the Devil, by Michael Pacher.
Saint Wolfgang and the Devil, by Michael Pacher.

He was the first virtuoso to perform from memory and because of that, he was able to move around the stage and interact with the audience.

Paganini invented new techniques such as left-hand pizzicato and various new kinds of bowing and tuning.

Certain techniques that are common today were popularized thanks to Paganini, including bouncing the bow on the strings as well as plucking the strings with his left hand.

It was said that he was able to do supernatural things like sight-read music incredibly.

His solos were notoriously difficult to play and his effect on audiences was said to be hypnotic and supernatural like he was possessing the crowd.

Paganini was so good that rumors persisted that he had sold his soul to the devil or that he was the Satan himself.

1831 bulletin advertising a performance of Paganini
1831 bulletin advertising a performance of Paganini

It was believed that his unusual finger length, which allowed him to play three octaves across four strings in a hand span, was due to Marfan syndrome.

People probably didn’t know how to explain his skills, so that is why they thought he sold his soul to the devil.

Stories spread throughout Europe that Paganini, known to be a great womanizer, had murdered a woman, entrapping her soul in his violin.

We have another amusing read from our music files:Secret composition performed only in the Sistine Chapel until young Mozart appears

After a concert in Viena, someone claimed that had seen the devil himself guiding Paganini’s arm. Paganini suffered from syphilis, tuberculosis, and depression, he died in Nice, France, on May 27, 1840. After four years, Pope Gregory XVI allowed his body to initially be transported to Genoa and it was ultimately laid to rest in La Villetta Cemetery in Parma, Italy.

Goran Blazeski

Goran Blazeski is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News