Is it already time for Eminent again? It feels like yesterday when we had our night of the notables last year, but finally as tens it is our turn to experience the full greatness of the night. Already, even before my first post I’ve been putting some thought into this project, even going as far as thinking about a learning center (for more info on what that is, check Eminent 2013). As you’ve probably already guessed from the title of this post, my eminent person this year is Niccolo Paganini. He is a very distinguished Italian violinist, guitarist, and composer from the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s. He may not be well known to the general public, but for those who play classical music, especially violin or guitar, he is like the modern Madonna or Beyonce.
For a brief biographical preview of his life, he was born 1782 in Genoa, Italy where he began playing the violin at the age of 5.
His first step towards fame came when a concert he performed in Milan at 1810 became a great success, but it wasn’t until 1828, very late in his life that he began to tour the rest of Europe. During this time he performed many of his own compositions which are very technically challenging such as his 24 caprices for solo violin, along with many different arrangements of other works. Here is a photo of his original Caprice no. 17 which shows just how technical his works can get.
Although he was quite sickly for most of his life, the effects of tuberculosis, Marfan syndrome (unconfirmed) and syphilis finally forced him to return to Genoa, ending his concert career. From there on, he taught many students and finally published his many compositions and violin methods.
It seemed like he could have lead a quiet life until the end, but in 1836 he moved to Paris to set up a casino, for he was also an avid gambler. The casino’s imminent failure soon left him with next to nothing and he died poor a few years later in 1840 after his health deteriorated even further.
Personally, I find the incidents after his death to be the most intriguing so I will only explain it briefly here and I will most likely dedicate another post to its specifics. His body wasn’t allowed to be brought into the city of Genoa until 1844 and it wasn’t buried until 1876 due to suspicions of him siding with the devil. His body was then placed in its true final resting place in 1896, 56 years after his death.
So now to make this post a little more personal to me…
Paganini and I may not seem so similar at first, but it was really our common love for music that made me want to study Niccolo Paganini. Music is such a powerful common interest that I believe it has the ability to surpass race, gender, age and more. Through classical music and the violin we have both faced similar scenarios such as nervous debuts, concert halls performances, recitals and more, but beyond music we also share similar religious beliefs and we live in similar economical situations even though we are from different eras.
Some of the differences are quite obvious such as gender and race, but there are also some great difference in personality, for Paganini was quite the womanizer and gambler, which I’d like to believe that I’m not. Of course there’s also a difference in skill level (which I hope to one day match up to), but that’s minor issue.
On a slightly different note, my goal for Eminent this year is to really find the connection between this project and myself. I want to make this different from a traditional school project where it sometimes feels as though you throw it away once its done. As this is my second and last night of the notables, I really do want to make it a memorable night, one that I can think back to in about 10 or 20 years and remember that anxiety before giving my speech or the fun of dressing up and being my person. More than just a record on technology, I want to be able to remember giving it my all.
Although I am still putting a lot of thought into this project, I feel that this year I am pulled by more of a gut feeling than last year. Last year, it was more like, “I found an interesting person to do a project on, this is who I’m doing!” But this year, I’m truly just going by what I feel from my connection with my person and his life which feels very exciting yet quite new as well. I’ve always picked a topic or a subject based on what I believed would give me the greatest result for the project, not always by true personal preference, so this year I’m glad that I can try and break that trend and try a new approach. That also relates to one of my main learning goals for this year, to just try a lot of new things, experience things from different perspective and look at a new approach for common patterns in my life.
I hope everyone reading this has gained some knowledge about Niccolo Paganini, the amazing violinist who almost single-handedly shaped a whole era of classical music while still having a clear influence on violin technique and musicality even today. He deserves to be called eminent and to be noticed! I can’t wait to share more about my journey through Eminent 2014 in these coming months.
As a small bonus, here is a link to Paganini’s Violin Caprice no. 24, one of his most famous pieces. This is an absolutely amazing recording of this piece by Jascha Heifetz.
I think I might start posting a new Paganini piece at the end of every blog post now Thanks for reading!