The story of Paganini

Niccolò Paganini was born on 27 October 1782 in Genoa, to parents Antonio Paganini and Teresa Bocciardo. When he was only seven years old, encouraged by his father, a port worker and amateur musician, he began studying the mandolin, an instrument that was very popular in Genoa. Later, he devoted himself to the violin and guitar. His father, hoping to mould his son into a musical prodigy, imposed a strict study regime, causing Paganini deprivation and intense days of work.

Starting in 1792, Niccolò Paganini was joined by violinist Giovanni Cervetto, composer Francesco Gnecco, and later Giacomo Costa. On 31 May 1794, at the age of eleven, Paganini gave his first performance as soloist at the Oratorio di S. Filippo.

In 1796, Paganini went to Parma to receive lessons from Alessandro Rolla. After holding two academies in Modena in December 1800, he returned to Genoa in 1801, dedicating himself once again to the study of the guitar. Although he was a master of this instrument, of which he acquired absolute mastery according to many witnesses, he never performed publicly on the guitar.

In 1801, together with his brother Carlo, he went to Lucca, where his concerts began to arouse wonder and amazement. During performances, he would surprise the audience with improvisations, reproducing animal sounds and creating sonorities never heard before. During this period, the legend of Paganini’s ‘secret’ technique spread, although there are no traces of this secret today. However, it is certain that the violinist was an absolute innovator of virtuosity. Due to a dissolute lifestyle, Paganini faced frequent financial difficulties, dissipating his savings on frivolous pleasures.

From 1805 to 1807, Paganini took on the role of first violin in the court orchestra of the Republic of Lucca, where he was also accompanied by his brother Carlo. Later, he joined the court of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister. In the first decade of the 19th century, Paganini joined Freemasonry, at the same time as the first rumors emerged about an alleged connection with the devil and the ‘arts’ of witchcraft, attributing the superhuman ability in his performances to the latter.

In 1814, Paganini fell in love with 20-year-old Angela Cavanna and the two lovers moved to Parma, despite her parents’ opposition. Angela, during her pregnancy, unfortunately, gives birth to a baby girl who is already dead. Angela’s father sues Paganini for child circumvention, claiming that the age of majority at the time was 21. Following this accusation, Paganini was imprisoned in the Ducal Palace in May 1815. During his brief period of imprisonment, he befriended the lawyer Luigi Guglielmo Germi, becoming his most sincere friend. Despite his short stay in prison, rumors spread in Italy and abroad that Paganini had learned the secrets of the violin during allegedly ‘long years of imprisonment’.

A few years later, after various adventures and love affairs, Paganini met the singer Antonia Bianchi, with whom he had a son named Achille in 1825. In 1828, Paganini succeeded in realizing a project he had dreamed of for a decade, thanks to an invitation to Vienna from the Austrian Chancellor Clemens von Metternich: he embarked on a grand tour abroad that lasted six years, until 1834. During this period, his fame grew so much that he became a living legend.

Niccolò Paganini, began the cult of artistic personality and personally managed his career with managerial skills, amassing considerable wealth. While on an international tour, his health deteriorated in 1837, becoming completely aphotic. Controversial events in Nice before his death in 1840, including the denial of burial in consecrated ground, were only resolved in 1876 when his body was found to rest in the ‘Villetta’ cemetery in Parma.

Niccolò Paganini

A life of music, travel, and genius

Born in Genoa

27 October 1782.

Start mandolin study

At the age of seven.

First solo performance

In 1794, the 11-year-old Niccolò performed as a soloist for the first time at the Oratorio si S. Filippo.

The tournée

From 1828 to 1834.

The disease

From 1837 he became ill and completely aphonic.


He died in Nice on 27 May 1840.

Life of Paganini

Some significant dates



Paganini’s birth

First concert

At the age of 11

epr_mappa copia
Note musicali

First violin

From 1805 to 1807

European Tour

From 1828