Paganini-Capriccio Nel cor piu non mi sento (Magdeburg MS)
Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Antonio Stradivari 1699)
Paganini-Capriccio Nel cor piu non mi sento (MagdeburgMS)
“Beethoven was with a very dear woman friend to him in a box, whilst La Molinara was being performed. During the well known Nel cor piu non mi sento the woman said that she had had a set of Variations on this Theme, but had lost them. That night, Beethoven wrote the 6 Variations and sent them the next morning to the lady with the inscription: “Variation on “Lost by the lady …rediscovered by Luigi van Beethoven. They are so easy, that the woman should be able to play them at sight.( P.520, Das Werk Beethovens, Thematisch-Bibliographisches Verzeichnis…, Georg Kinsky/Hans Halm, Henle Verlag, Munich)
Giovanni Paisiello’s 1789 two act opera buffa written for Naples had also been played in Vienna in 1790 and 1794, and at the end of June 1795 was received with renewed success in the programme of the K. and K. Kärtnertotheater. A piano arrangement by C.G .Neefe (‘Overture and favourite arias…) was published by Simrock in Bonn.[i]
Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) was born in Naples and after eight years under the patronage of Catherine the Great, where he made the first operatic version of The Barber of Seville, returned to Italy in 1784. Napoleon’s favourite composer, and his Director of Choral music for two years, he composed two elaborate settings for Napoleon’s dramatic coronation in 1804. His opera La Molinara, from which Nel Cor Piu was one of the most successful operas in Vienna, were it was produced, in German, as die Schöne Mullerin.
The link between Paganini’s work on this piece and Beethoven, is irresistible. The melody, which was translated in English as ‘Hope told a flattering tale’ was the most popular in Vienna in the years after its premiere. Paisiello’s star is no longer in the ascendant, but a glance at Whistlings Hanbuch for the years 1825 onwards bears this out, as does the Kinsky Halm Beethoven Verzeichniss which both document innumerable sets of variations., by composers including Gelinek, Hummel,. Kauer, Gabler, Lichnowski, Wanahl amongst others.
Beethoven was known to have improvised upon the little pastoral from la Molinara and then set it as variations after a request from a woman in the adjacent box at the opera to his in 1795. Moreover, the Italian violinist Polledro, with whom he gave a concert for flood victims in Baden in 1812, also played a set of his variations at that concert-or perhaps they worked on Beethoven’s own set. The possible influence of Polledro on Paganini’s own style has not been investigated, but even the most cursory glance at the manuscripts of his two violin concerti, reveals a played obsessed with instrumental effects-notating Sul Ponticello and producing colours not unlike those demanded by Paganini. One set of variations for violin and piano utilizes a left hand tremolo very like Paganini’s 6th Caprice, and the tremolo variation in Nel Cor Piu. It might even be possible that the beginning point for Paganini’s own set of variations might be Polledro’s, which have disappeared.
In 1823, one Francesco Morlachi wrote to Giovanni Ricordi from Dresden, that Polledro was leaving his post as Konzertmeister of the court orchestra in Dresden. He had held this post since 1816, after he had returned from 6 years in Russia, and now was about to take on the task of first violin and Kapellmeister of the Royal Chapel. Morlachi seemed to fell that the orchestra would be best served by having another representative of the Piedmontese violin school as leader. It was clear, that in his mind, Paganini and Polledro were cut from the same cloth. He noted to Ricordi: “This post is very prestigious and lucrative. Would Paganini accept it?” P. 215, N Paganini, Epistolalrio 1810-1831, Sjira 2006)
1829, Paganini and Polledro were in active correspondence; on 7th April that year Paganini advised Polledro on making a tour to Florence, Parma and Milan. From then on the correspondence took another turn, and is almost exclusively concerned with Paganini’s attempts to get his cello student (“l’unico mio allievo…”), Gaetano Ciandelli, a post in the Kapell in Dresden.
This does not in any way take away from Paganini’s compositional and innovative achievement. In fact, it is almost impossible to find a work written at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th Centuries that does not reveal a complex web of influences, overwritings, and copying.
The dividing line between composition and improvisation has increasingly become a keenly contested one, even by publishers. Up to well into the nineteenth century, extemporization and ornamentation were seen as being the primary function of the interpreter. With that being the case it can sometimes be observed that publishers were in the habit of pulling back their composers from interfering too much with their customers’ own freedom to ornament and embellish the music. An example of this was provided by the Parisian composer and published, Pacini, later to be associated with Paganini. In 1815, he published an unauthorized transcription of Beethoven’s C Major Sonata Op 2 no 3, as a string quartet. In Beethoven’s orginal, there is an extensive, if somewhat simplistic cadenza in the last movement; the straightforward nature of this already suggests that the composer had been encouraged, at the very least, to provide a cadenza that would be sight-readable by the amateurs who would buy the music. In Pacini’s transcription, the cadenza is completely excised, replaced by a chord with a fermata indication, familiar from nearly every cadenza published in this period. It is worth recalling that as late as the Brahms, composers would write violin concerti without interfering with the performers role, of writing or improvising a cadenza.
Wilhelm Speyer to Spohr 17th September 1829: “ I found his performance of the Beethoven Sonata (Op 24). I will relate to you the most bizarre aspect of this; after the repeat of the first Rondo he played the theme in ‘Octave-Double-Stopped-Harmonics.” (Wilhelm Speyer der Liederkomponist 1790-1878 Munich 1925 p103)
Speyer was not only a violinist-composer but also a noted reviewer for the Allgemeine Musikalishe Zeitung. He knew what he was listening to; after graduating in jurisprudence at Heidelberg, he had studied with Pierre Baillot in Paris from 1811-1813.