Why Paganini Is Popular At Violin Competitions

Why Paganini Is Popular At Violin Competitions

by Paul Cassarly

If you’re a musician, then more likely than not you’ve heard of Niccolò Paganini. For those wishing to know a little more about his history, here are a few facts referenced from his Wikipedia article, which you can find here.

Having been born in Genoa, then capital of the Republic of Genoa, Niccolò Paganini was the third of the six children of Antonio and Teresa (née Bocciardo) Paganini. Paganini’s father was an unsuccessful trader, but he managed to supplement his income by playing music on the mandolin. At the age of five, Paganini started learning the mandolin from his father and moved to the violin by the age of seven. His musical talents were quickly recognized, earning him numerous scholarships for violin lessons.

Throughout his career, Paganini also became close friends with composers Gioachino Rossini and Hector Berlioz. Rossini and Paganini met in Bologna in the summer of 1818. In January 1821, on his return from Naples, Paganini met Rossini again in Rome, just in time to become the substitute conductor for Rossini’s opera Matilde di Shabran, upon the sudden death of the original conductor. Paganini’s efforts earned gratitude from Rossini.


No doubt, Paganini’s compositional style was greatly influenced by famous composers Rossini and Berlioz. In fact, you can find many passages in Paganini’s work that are very similar to the two latter composers, who had an enormous impact on Paganini’s career.

Above is pictured Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1, written in the year 1818. Classical music was in a great transformational stage at this time, and the light, colourful concerto style was extremely popular among virtuoso performers.

Paganini’s violin concertos were some of the most well-attended public concerts during his career, although much of his life was spent freelancing around Europe. His music was always well-received, and through the generous benefactors that supported his career, he was able to establish a foothold as one of the greatest classical composers of all time.


Some of the most popular pieces of music asked for in modern violin competitions are Paganini’s Caprices. Below, we’ve included a snippet from the original, handwritten manuscript of his 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Op.1:

Notice that Paganini had absolutely every intention of writing virtuoso material and took complete freedom with challenging violinists at their instrument. This then begs the question:

Why are his caprices so often asked for at violin competitions?

The answer is fairly simple: out of all of Paganini’s wonderful compositions, there is a no larger collection of virtuoso pieces such as his 24 Caprices for Solo Violin. Each Caprice in and of itself has a distinct character apart from the others. This set of caprices also was probably not the very first set of compositions that Paganini tried his hand at, but according to historians it was certainly the most successful – thus, it is a popular choice in classical violin competitions.

In short, if one is serious about the violin (or even the ambitious trumpet player who wants to tackle Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo, Op. 11), then consider working on the 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Op.1 for your next solo competition! (To learn more about how you can become a member of iClassical Academy and learn these pieces from the best Master Teachers, click here.)

Modern versus Baroque Violin Bow

Modern versus Baroque Violin Bow

by Paul Casserly

Miriam Fried is a Master Teacher of the violin, and in our excerpt video (which you can find here), she explains that there are a few differences between the modern violin bow and the Baroque violin bow. Let’s explore the history and differences between performing a violin piece performed with each, how they are similar, and the stylistic differences of how each plays a piece written by Baroque composers. Continue reading Modern versus Baroque Violin Bow

Lago Maggiore – Where History and Italian Elegance are merged with Music

Where History meets Elegance and Music

Visit Lago Maggiore and the Music Scene

By Irma de Jong

Lake (Lago) Maggiore is situated on the south side of the Alps. It is the second largest lake in Italy and the largest in southern Switzerland. The lake and its shoreline are divided between the Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy and the Swiss canton of Ticino.  All around the lake, there are beautiful cities and villages located, but what strikes most is the enormous amounts of music events you can find here practically throughout the whole year.  Continue reading Lago Maggiore – Where History and Italian Elegance are merged with Music

Picturesque Warmond at the Kagerplassen, home of Dutch Painter Jan Steen

Picturesque Warmond at the Kagerplassen, home of Dutch painter Jan Steen

Go beyond the tourist crowds and discover a lovely part of the Netherlands, full of watersport, Dutch windmills, art and culture.

Jan Steen Household

Ever heard of the Dutch painter Jan Havickszoon Steen?   He was a Dutch genre painter of the 17th century also known as the Dutch Golden Age. His works are known for their psychological insight, sense of humour and abundance of colour. Jan Steen was born in Leiden, a town in Southern Holland, where his well-to-do, Catholic family were brewers who ran the tavern The Red Halbert for two generations. Jan Steen lived in Warmond, just north of Leiden, from 1656 till 1660 and his house can be found at the beginning of the Jan Steenlaan.

Former Jan Steen house in Warmond

Daily life was Jan Steen’s central pictorial theme. Many of the genre scenes he portrayed, as in The Feast of Saint Nicholas, are lively to the point of chaos and lustfulness, even so much that “a Jan Steen household”, meaning a messy scene, became a Dutch proverb. Subtle hints in his paintings seem to suggest that Steen said to warn the viewer rather than invite him to copy this behaviour. Many of Steen’s paintings bear references to old Dutch proverbs or literature. He often used members of his family as models, and painted quite a few self-portraits in which he showed no tendency of vanity. (Source: Wikipedia page Jan Steen)

In 2019 Warmond is celebrating the year of the Golden Age and its famous painter Jan Steen. Walks, exhibitions and other activities are organised.  Find more info here (site is in Dutch).

Many of Steen’s work can be seen in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

Enjoy a boat trip over the Kagerplassen (the Kager Lakes) and discover a typical Dutch landscape

When visiting Warmond, don’t miss out a boat trip over the Kagerplassen! We took one with Rederij van Hulst, and can highly recommend their services. There is a beautiful trip of 2,5 hours that brings you to Kaageiland and sails over a big part of the extended Kagerplassen.  The Kaag Lakes are a popular area for boating, watersports, fishing, camping and walking. Windmills, waterfront pasture land with grazing animals, quaint Dutch boats and buildings and (in season) flower fields are all part of the charm of boating and walking in this area.

Nice musical intermission on the Kaag Eiland (Kaag island)

The boat trip goes ashore for 45 minutes on the Kaag island. In addition to a cheese farm, a large shipyard that builds yachts for the rich of the earth, we were lucky to find the music festival that takes place every year the first Sunday in July. Don’t miss it next year! More info here.

Conclude your trip with a walk through Warmond. It is full of nice restaurants and also offers events the whole year through. Famous is the Kaagwater Jazz festival in April.

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