Working with Paganini’s ‘Secret Red Book’ (in preparation)

Posted on June 27th, 2012 by

Working with Paganini’s ‘Secret Red Book’-Library of Congress, Washington DC

NEWS-the Library of Congress film of my work with the ‘Red Book’ will go ‘live’ next week!

Soundbox-The Red Book at the Royal Academy of Music

Tuesday 25th September. Museum of the Royal Academy of Music 1230 (Admission Free)

This is the first research event that I will be presenting about this unique object, and will be full of the latest insights, from laundary lists to poetry, that are emerging from this wonderful object!

Where to look? Hard at work in Washington-the choice between the Amati, the Strad and the book…..Photo: Richard Bram


14th August, the first ‘Red Book’ event, at Wilton’s Music Hall. 

Inspired by Paganini, Judith Bingham, Locatelli, and a sold-out audience, full of questions and enthusiasm. Photo Marius Skaerved

Paganini (a Parisian souvenir bust from the 1830s) and a page of the ‘red book’ sneak onto the Wilton’s mantlepiece.

The ‘Red Notebook’ is Paganini’s touring memorandum book, full of poetry, concert receipts, travel records, mute design, appointments-from 1828-1831, the beginning of his years of touring north of the Alps. Paganini had achieved world-fame as early as the mid 18-teens, but for various reasons, chose to not venture out of what is now Italy until 1828, when he was 46.

Simple silhouette of Paganini, apparently made during his last visit to the UK in 1834. Even this crude rendering gives a powerful idea of his unique posture.

LINK for more information about this project

LINK for ‘Bows for Paganini


With the ‘Red Book’ at the Library of Congress. June 2012


29th June 2012

I now have scans of the whole ‘Red Book’, so I can start a more detailed overview.

So I will begin with a little puzzle. The very last page includes nothing but a drawing. My immediate response to this is that Paganini was experimenting with a new design for a violin mute. Here it is:

Possible mute design, from the Red Notebook.

June 30th

The Red Book, as I have noted below, does not work sequentially, with the exception of a desultory attempt to number the first two pages.

These are just first impressions garnered from the few hours that I spent on my trip to Washington to film on June 20th 2012.

The Cover of Paganini”s ‘Red Book’, marked ‘Verses, Stories and Sonnets’. Photo, Richard Bram

At first sight, the book is very familiar to anyone who uses a notebook as I do, and works with 18th and 19th Century ‘albums’. It has been remarked that it is odd that Paganini did not fill the pages of this book in order. Frankly, I would have been surprised if he had of done. There is(as I have just noticed) a desultory stab at numbering the first two pages. In the early 19th Century, it was common to use note books in this way unless they were bought with pre-numbered entries, such as the Tagebuch  which Beethoven used in 1812 and 1813. The use of these numberings could itself lead to slight oddnesses. In Beethoven’s case, it resulted in an apparently organised, but in point of fact, meaningless abutment of philosophical quotes, personal reminders, numbered next to day-to-day minutiae. The only use of the numbers is that it tells us the order in which they were entered (not the date).

I would, however, go a little further, and point out that coming from 18th century Italy, and its particular mixture of religion and superstition, Paganini, like others of his day, was perhaps prone to a deliberate ‘carefulness’, an avoidance of ‘numbering’ his personal life, which had origins of which he was unaware, but to which he may have been sensitive. The numbering of pages in books was always a vexed issue in the early church. The priest Elias Salomon, writing in the late 13th Century, called the numbering of pages for ease computus, a system which had no relation to the liturgical function of the book, or the church year. There was a fear that such simplicity laid its users open to heresy, and reports of choir masters cutting off the corners of such pages so that their charges did not fall into sin, by using something which made a religious task too easy, and therefore treacherous. Naturally, the possibility of the introduction of the Arabic number system, which included the number ‘zero’, long anathema in the Church, was long regarded as fraught with peril. Of course, I am not suggesting that Paganini and his contemporaries were tortured by medieval ecclesiastical guilts and fears, but that this concern may lie at the heart of why personal books-albums, commonplace books, and even as in this case, a book which was in some part, filled with accounts and ledgers, were oftentimes kept in apparent dis-order.

I don’t seem to suffer from this. I fill in my notebooks in order, and take (heretical?!) pleasure in numbering the pages after the book is finished.

Two notebooks. It was pointed out that Paganini’s Red Book is not so dissimilar to my own notebook. Library of Congress 20th June. Photo Richard Bram


The ‘Red Book’ begins with very good intentions, with a series of Sonnets copied out in the handwriting of Paganini’s lawyer and old friend. Indeed the back cover is inscribed with ‘Sonetti di [Germi {crossed out}]. My feeling is that he gave Paganini the book, with the poems as a ‘start’ as a travelling gift, and then added to it later-halfway through there is a lengthy translation of a story, (Lalla Rookh ‘Madre Indiana’)beginning in Germi’s neat hand, but which seems to changed into multiple hands, and might ( I am spit-balling here) even include the occasional word written by Paganini’s young son, Achille (by Antonia Bianchi), who nearly always travelled with him.

Lalla Rookh

Halfway through the book is the translation ‘from the English’ of part of the romance ‘Lalla Rookh’ (1817) by the much celebrated Thomas Moore. I am unclear as to whether this was included, and wonder whether the two friends embarked on this as a translation exercise-the title notes that it is a translation from the English.  That might explain the various hands noted above, which begin very neatly, and end, well, not so much.

The Irish poet and folk-song lyricist, Thomas Moore (179?-1852) based his song, Love thee dearest, which was later based on  the second movement of Giovanni Battista Viotti’s 5th Violin Concerto. But Moore was a capable musician, whose Irish Melodies, which appeared from 1808-1834, came to confirm him as Ireland’s leading ‘bard’ – the most famous of these, later ‘varied’ by Paganini’s great imitator, Ernst.  Thomas More was sure that the French Revolution had profoundly changed the disposition and behaviour of Britain’s upper classes, bringing an “Increased reserve of manner, and or course, a proportionate restraint on all within the circle which have been fatal to conviviality and humour…”  Moore links Viotti to the circle of intellects around the Lord Byron (1788-1824), a lifelong admirer of Napoleon, who dedicated The Corsair to Moore, remarking that his “lyrics shine in hot-pressed twelves.”

Another poem in the ‘Red Book’ is dedicated to the daughter of Bernhard Eskeles (1753-1839). Eskeles was a partner in the Viennes Bank of ‘Arstein & Eskeles’ was also a music patron(he was also a distant cousin of Felix Mendelssohn). For any 19th century traveller, the assurance of a good relationship with banks in the cities to be visited was vital, as it was simply too risky to travel with large amounts of currency. Paganini was introduced formally to ‘Arnstein & Eskeles’ by  Carlo di Tommaso in a letter written in Milan on March 1st 1828, the month before he left Italy for the Imperial Capital.

Marianne von Eskeles

On the 11th June, Paganini noted in a letter to Germi that after his ‘trionfi’ in Vienna, he had deposited 60,000  Austrian Lire in the ‘Banka Eskeles’. The personal link to the Eskeles family raises a tantalising ‘what if’. Paganini arrived in Vienna in 1828, the year after the death of Ludwig van Beethoven, whose chamber music he admired passionately. The names of Paganini’s Vienna contacts are the Beethoven circle. At one point in the ‘Red book’ Beethoven reminds himself to take a letter from Beethoven’s piano student Ferdinand Ries,  to Sir George Smart in London. If Beethoven had still been alive, there is no question that they not only would have met, but (I believe) collaborated. Music history might have looked very different. At one point, Paganini and Beethoven both lodged in the same London building, the now demolished ‘Quadrant’ -which was built to disguise the curve of Regent Street.

Sir George Thomas Smart by William Bradley. When he met Beethoven in Vienna, the great composer admonished him not to play his F minor Quartet, op 95 in public, as it was too complex for all but the most sophisticated audiences

Ferdinand Ries-G minor Sonata Op 87/Concert Recording-London 2003
Peter Sheppard Skaerved with Aaron Shorr, Piano-
Engineer/Producer-Jonathan Haskell (Astounding Sounds)

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Paganini’s care and interest in his concert receipts was often misunderstood-resulting in his being accused of avarice.

Anonymous British newspaper article: ‘Paganini – this greatest of all imposters is travelling about the country ‘scraping’ pence, and swears he will not go to Russia so long as John Bull will throw a shilling into his hat.  Is there no clause in the Vagrant Act that will lay hold of this fellow ?  We thought that act was comprehensive enough for anything.’

The ‘Red Book’ provides another angle on this, as it contains a number of ‘comp lists’. This is part of a performer’s life to this day, and coming up with the balance between receipts and the goodwill created by free tickets is a delicate one for musicians to this day. Paganini would, it seems often deal personally with the box office, shortly before the concert, handing over the comp list, and checking receipts.In 1830, Paganini noted in a letter to Germi that he had run into his onetime rival, Charles-Philippe Lafont, at the box office of the theare in Baden Baden. Lafont was queuing up with his family, and Paganini ran into him at the precise moment that he was paying for his ticket, which seems to have given him considerable satisfaction. There are two lists of free tickets for Berlin, which are topped, both times by the opera composer, Gaspare Spontini, Kapellmeister and principal conductor of the Hofoper.

Charles-Philippe  Lafont-Variations on ‘La Vestale’ (Spontini) Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Guarneri del Gesu Il Cannone-strung with Gut strings and Paganini’s bridge design/live performanceLondon February 2006

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Gaspare Spontini

 The ‘Red Book’ lists a selection of people that Paganini met in the course of his ‘grand tour’ of Europe, beginning with the arrival in Vienna in April 1828. The list of acquaintances in ‘Warsaw’ inludes one ‘giovine Pianista’…the young Chopin.

Paganini played in Warsaw Cathedral on May 24, 1829, on the Coronation day (as King of Poland), of the Tsar of Russia. The performance was attended by the twenty-year old Fredryck Chopin, who, referring to a later concert in Warsaw, when Paganini invited the Polish violin virtuoso, Karl Lipinski, to appear with him in a Kreutzer Duo Concertante,  said: -“If I were such a pianist as Paganini is a violinist I should like to engage in a similar competition with a pianist of equal powers.”

Paganini’s The Carnival of Venice certainly ‘conquered’ Chopin. Three years later, he would write the following about Paganini’s playing:

“I confess that I played like Herz, but would wish to play like Kalkbrenner. If Paganini is perfection , the Kalkbrenner is his equal.” It was at the end of 1829 his own set of ‘Paganini Variations’ appeared.

Upon hearing Chopin for the first time, in 1834, Felix Mendelssohn was moved to write  to his mother that he was:

“ quite a second Paganini executing all sorts of impossibilities which one thought could not be done.”

In the middle of 1829 Chopin was invited to a supper party at a Salon in Vienna, and  was asked to improvise variations, the normal calling card of any visiting virtuoso in informal company, ‘playing for their supper’. So Chopin asked for a theme. None of the various Chopin commentaries that I have read seem to pick up on the the significance of the theme that they asked him to play. The chosen theme  was the Preghira  from Rossini’s ‘Sacred Opera’, Mose in Egitto. This opera had not been produced in Vienna, but had been, had been popularized by Paganini as the basis of his Sonata a la preghira , during his triumphant visit the previous year. Paganini’s Sonata was one of his most frequently performed works on his grand tour; clearly ‘his’ melodies had permeated the popular consciousness, another significator of the effectiveness of his passion for melody. Rossini’s tune, was made famous by Paganini.

One of Rossini’s manuscripts for ‘Mose in Egitto/Moïse’ from the collection of the Library of Congress

Chopin’s own variations on Paganini’s O Mamma Cara , entitled, like so many other works at the time,  Souvenir de Paganin was written in 1829, was not published until 1887.

When I suggested to Aaron Shorr, Head of Piano at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, that he programme this piece, we realised that this piece was not part of the known Chopin canon.  In his words, “When Peter convinced me to play this piece, it was not a Chopin piece that I had come across or even knew, except from a small mention in the Paderewski Edition. Paderewski actually dismissed this particular work as a minor trifle, and it is unusual to find any Chopin that is as little known as this.

“Looking into it, I was first struck by the presence of a germ  of the style of the works that would follow this one. Firstly, it will be very obvious to you, if I take the opening; I was very struck by the opening few bars, which direcly prefigure the end of the  E Minor Etude, one of the most unusual endings of all time. In that piece, the ending seems to come, as it were, out of the blue. But we see that it is here in a different guise, in the introduction to the Carnival of Venice./“What I found particularly interesting, was the response that Chopin had to Paganini. This was very different to that of Liszt or Schumann. The Liszt-ean response to Paganini obviously, came out in the Etudes based on Paganini’s caprices. Theirs was a very virtuosic response to the idea  of Paganini. However, what Chopin seems to have taken, and passed on to his pupils, was the idea of cantilena. He seems to have been so struck by how Paganini was able to take this wonderful theme, and then spin a ‘string of pearls, as Chopin described it, of this main theme.You can hear, first of all the harmonic basis of the piece, the simple ‘one-five’ chords that Chopin set to this theme. This recalls Chopin’s most famous Berceuse. In fact, as soon as I played the Paganini variations, it became clear to me where the Berceuse had ‘come from’. Of course, this is a much later work. It wouldn’t be stretching the point too far to suggest that the Andante Spianato ‘s sound world, can be traced back to this early work/“So, to be able to spin these variations off this very simple harmonic setting was something for which Chopin was renowned, something completely different to the approach, that Liszt had. And perhaps this mining of great jewels from unpromising veins, was something which Chopin recognised in Paganini”

Berlioz was the only authority who noted what Chopin had achieved. The reverie into which he fell, hearing Ernst play The Carnival of Venice was of the evenings when he heard Chopin play in St Petersburg.

“It was an unforgettable moment when he reappeared and amid thunders of applause, after performing those glowing, grandly conceived works of this in his most imposing style, and as a farewell gesture to his audience played the variations on The Carnival of Venice (which he had the audacity to composer after Paganini, and without imitating them)-a piece of sublime whimsy in which invention and technical wizardry are so skillfully blended that in the end one ceases to be astonished at anything and simply sits back, lulled by the constant rocking movement of the accompanying theme, as thought solo violin were not executing the most prodigious feats of agility and conjuring cascades of gleaming, iridescent melody the while.” Somehow Paganini’s Carnival of Venice had the ability to summon up the entire romantic notion of the romance of this crumbling city.

Letters of Introduction

A vital part of a touring performer’s tool box was the letters of introduction which were necessary, not only to travel, but perhaps more importantly to gain access to the right salons, to the chamberlains, theatre directors, politicians, churchmen, police chiefs and ambassadors who could open or close doors. In preparation for arrival in Vienna in April 1828, the ‘Red Book’ lists no fewer than 19 references which would be necessary to not fail in the Royal Imperial Capital. It is, perhaps not surprisingly, one of the most fastidiously prepared  sections of the ‘Red Book’. Paganini, of course, had a huge advantage, as indicated by the letter which is recorded, to the Austrian Ambassador in Berlin, from ‘Pr Metternic’ [sic].

Prince Metternich in 1825, by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Shortly after arriving in Vienna 1828  Paganini wrote:

“This evening I will play at the house of Prince Metternich, and tomorrow again at a charity concert in the Redoutensaal“.

It was Metternich who had been responsible for Paganini’s long delayed visit to Vienna. He first heard Paganini in the winter of 1818-19 in Rome-at the house of Prince Kaunitz. Paganini wrote:

‘Prince Metternich, who was then in Rome, could not attend this concert owing to an indisposition, but came to the Palace the next morning. To oblige him, I took the first violin that came to hand and played something for him, which pleased him so much that he came again the same evening….It was on this occasion that Prince Metternich invited me to come to Vienna. I promised to visit that city first after leaving Italy.

In a letter written to Germi from Naples, on the 20th July 1819, he noted that  he actually planned to go to Vienna in the spring of the following year, after having stayed in Palermo, at the invitation of Metternich, who had promised to assist him with presenting Academie. From Vienna, he suggested, he could go to Paris and then London. This was of course, exactly what eventually did happen, but only after a decade of prevarication. The Prince Metternich was later instrumental, alongside Napoleon’s second empress,  Archduchess Marie Louise of Parma (who became Paganini’s patron in 1836), in sponsoring Achille Paganini’s legitimacy.

Princess Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma’s coat of arms

He was rewarded for his efforts by being given the medal of the Austrian Royal Household. It is noteworthy that his show-stopping variations on Paisello’s  ‘Nel Cor piu non mi sento’ were taken from the opera La Molinara which was very popular in Vienna. It had already inspired variations by Beethoven, Hummel, Vogler, and Gelinek, to name but a few of the many composers listed in Whistlings Handbuch.

Paganini-Capriccio Nel cor piu non mi sento (Magdeburg MS)/Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Antonio Stradivari 1699)/

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I noted above, that Paganini had run into the violinist Charles Philippe Lafont in Baden Bade in August 1830. This links very neatly to the mention of Ludwig Spohr in the ‘Red Book’. Paganini note in a letter to Germi written on the 12th December 1829 in Karlsruhe, that he was on his way to give concerts in Kassel, where ‘Spohr was waiting for him’. Paganini and Spohr had actually met years before-he had heard the great German violinist play a concert in Venice, on the 14th October 1816. In his Selbstbiographie, Spohr reported that:

‘Paganini came to see me that morning in order to give me many congrutulations for my concert. I asked him to play something for me, backed up by the friends who were present. But he gave me a marked refusal asserting that this was the result of a fall which had caused trouble with his arm.’

Another violinist was clearly impressed by Paganini in Cassel. Both Antonie Bott and his son were pupils of Spohr-the elder produced a set of  6 Caprices observing Paganini’s techniques. Follow the link: BOTT CAPRICES

Antoine Bott’s fascinating introduction to the playing techniques used in his ’6 Caprices’ a journeyman’s guide to Paganini’s new approach-with my scribblings

Appropriately enough, the mention of Spohr in the ‘Red Book’ is health linked. During their time in Kassel, it appears that the question of Paganini’s healt had come up and Spohr recommended his physician who suggested he take the waters at Baden. This was not any old doctor, but the pioneering Surgeon and Opthamologist, Karl Himly, founder of Ophthalmologische Bibliothek,  the first publication about to ophthalmic medicine in Germany. It was in Germany that it was reported that Paganini had experience trouble with his eyes. Spohr wrote Paganini a letter of introduction to Himly, noted in the Red Book:

‘Letter from Cassel to Gottingen from M.r Spohr to the care of the celebrated doctor Sgr. Hmly who advised me to take the water cure of the Bath at Baden Baden, and the same letter procuring me a concert at Gottingen’

Karl Himly, image by Ludwig Emil Grimm 1826 (British Museum)

There are a number of accounts of Paganini wearing glasses with blue-tinted lenses. These were certainly not reading spectacles; it was widely presume that he wore these to ameliorate the glare from the lights around him. Standing between the orchestra and the audience, facing down, ensured that he was not facing the bright light from the orchestra’s music stands, if the orchestra was ‘fitted up on the stage’. His downward gaze ensured that he was not blinded by the brightest light in the concert hall, which was usually often became the huge centrally placed chandelier in. This also meant that Paganini effectively made himself the one dark spot in the hall; the combination of this placing, his posture, pale features, and old-fashioned dark clothing could only contribute to this effect. As Colonel Maxwell Montgomery wrote after encountering Paganini in 1814:

“ I have become acquainted with the most outré, most extravagant, and strangest character I ever beheld, or heard in the musical line…His long figure, long neck, and long forehead, his hollow and deadly pale cheek, large black eyes, hooked nose, and jet black hair, which is long and moren than half hides his expressive Jewish face-asll these rendered him the most extraordinary person I ever beheld.”

In many theatres,the new Gas Lighting was replaceding the candles and oil lamps, and the practice of dimming the lights during performances, even theatrical, had not yet been introduced.Even though the new gas lighting could be adjusted by the turn of a screw, the new bright theatres were still the essential novelty; this being so, Paganini’s sensive eyes would go on being tortured, and he was forced to lower his eyes or wear dark glasses.

Typical tinted corrective lenses from the 1830-1840s

For all this, Paganini’s  dark glasses would not have been prescribed for sunlight or stage lights. It was popularly believed that the effort of seeing through green or blue glasses could adjust an ophthalmic problem, through a form of exercise. In point of fact, this is, within limits, true. The eye can be therapised through such muscular and dilatory exercise, but only within half a dioptre. If the dark glasses had been designed to protect the eyes from glare, then they would have been much larger than the small lenses which were generally prescribed. Curiously, it is precisely these glasses that Gary Oldman wears as Count Dracula in the scene where he wanders the streets of  19th century London in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There are no depictions of Paganini wearing these spectacles, but there have been questions raised as to whether one of the six extant Landseer drawings of the violinist actually depicts him wearing an eyepiece. Whatever the reason for his purchasing them,  the blue tinted lenses might have helpe Paganini deal with on-stage glare, a problem which vexes most performers at some time in their performing careers.His glasses are preserved to this day in the archive of the Paganini Conservatorio in Genova, Italy.

 One image which has proved useful, and which has already formed part of our exploration at the Library is ‘Le Paganini du Charivari’ (Paganini of the Racket-makers). This image, which seems to date from an 1839 edition of Le Figaro , the year before Paganini’s death, cariactures the virtuoso, with a rampaging mob, and urinating dog, playing with a walking stick and a shovel, and wearing blue-tinted spectacles.

Le Paganini du Charivari.Caricature du Figaro(No.9)


Paganini in Southampton

One  page of the Red Book, includes no more than an address, of a ‘Mr Wellman’ in Southampton. This provides a laconic reminder of the importance of local promoters for Paganini, touring the British Isles between 1831 and 1834. On the 30th and 31st August 1832, Paganini gave two concerts at the ‘Long Rooms’ in Southampton. This was the ball room of the ‘Dolphin Hotel’, established in 1775, where Jane Austen also enjoyed dancing. As he travelled around the UK, the paucity of suitable theatres, meant that Paganini often gave concerts in just such multi-purpose rooms. The Ballroom of the Ship Hotel in Brighton has a plague commemorating his performance there from 1832.

The Long Room was behind the bay window on the 1st Floor (English style) on the right


The bill for Paganini’s concert at the  Long Rooms , in Southampton, gives a useful overview of the flavour and problems Paganini faced touring in the provinces in the UK. Top of the bill, literally, is the promoter, a  “Mr Wellman”, who announces that he

 ” has the honour to inform the Nobility and Gentry of Southampton  the County of Hants his Grand Evening Concert, will take place on Thursday Next, August 30th, on which occasion he has engaged the celebrated Signor Paganini, who will perform four of his most Favourite pieces, and will be accompanied by a First Rate pianist from London, etc.”

If one were only to read only up till this point on the playbill, one might easily be deluded in to thinking that there was no orchestra available. This concert took place took place eight monts after the s orchestral concert at the Albion Music Hall in Leeds, and by this point, Paganini was touring with the brilliant Pio Cianchettin, who began his career as a child prodigy (‘Mozart Britannicus) as accompanist.

Cianchettinni would have first met Paganini in Milan in 1816-where he played on the same bill as the violinist in 1816

However, further down, the bill explicitly states that “The orchestra will be complete in all its Departments and formed of the principal talent of the County. Leader Mr Klitz.” Mr P.Klitz was an accomplished pianist and violinist, as well as a composer of ballads. He ran a music shop in Lymington, which survives to this day.

The Klitz Family business continues to this day. Here is establishment, in the orginal building, in 1955

Clearly, Paganini had not intention, after the debacle in Leeds, of risking performing with the ‘principal talent of the county’. However, it is clear that Mr Wellman was not goint to take the risk of disillusioning his public, who would have demanded an orchestra ‘complete in all of its departments’. Perhaps this is where the slight lack of clarity as to whose concert it was, Paganini’s or Wellman’s may have originated.

Southampton High Street in 1828. The sign for Wellman’s Music Shop is just visible on the right. Engraving by Skelton

However, the cause of the separation may have been more practical. Perhaps Paganini had demanded a careful rehearsal, with all the players, and stipulated the same condition as he demanded in Dublin a year earlier , as recorded twenty years later in the International Magazine:

[he stipulated that] if he required a rehearsal on a dark morning, when extra light might be indispensable, the expense of candles should not fall on his- a contingency which by no possible contrivance, could involve a responsibility exceeding five or six shillings.

Historically, the cost of candles fell on the shoulders of theatre performers. In late seventeenth century London the audiences were sometimes confined to the ‘court class’; the result being that the audiences were  to small to even cover the costs of these candles, let alone providing the performers with an income.

It is not inconceivable that the combination of the expenses of Paganini’s fees, the extra cost that would accrue with hiring the whole orchestra for the morning, and Paganini’s stipulation regarding the lighting expenses would simply have been too much for the hapless Wellman. It is clear that he was concerned that the attraction of Paganini might not be enough to cover his expenses, Paganini is sharing equal billing with Madame Pietralia ‘from the kings Theatre-Italian Opera House’ and Mr Field, ‘ from the Bath Concerts’ who between them would over ‘admired ARIAS from the most esteemed authors’ and ‘some of the most popular Melodies’ . Miss Petralia sang Pacini and Rossini, and Mr Field offered  ‘ The Trumpet of War’ and ‘ The Soldier’s Last Sigh’, very much John Braham material.

Pietralia, Signora Costanza, sharing the Bill with Paganini in London in 1831

In addition, the orchestra was playing a Haydn Symphony, unspecified, and an Overture ‘(by desire)’ by Boildieu, the Caliph of Bagdad.  This full programme was fattened further by an unspecified trio of flute, cello and piano, are billed to play a trio by Crouch, and with the addition of a harpist, a quartet by Nicolas Bochsa; it is not made clear whether the pianist in these two works would the ‘First Rate Pianist from London’. (presumably Pio Cianchettini) Paganini himself is billed to play a ‘Prelude and Rondo Brillante’, which does not match up to any one piece, but may be the finale to his first concerto, with an improvised prelude. The first half concludes with his variations on Mamma Cara, better known now as the Carnival of Venice, which he had first introduced in 1829. The concert finishes, in Paganini’s unique fashion, without either the orchestra ‘ complete in all its departments’ or a ‘first-rate pianist from London’, just Paganini ‘(By Desire)’, playing his Nel cor piu non mi sento variations, on Paisello’s la Molinara.

Niccolo Paganini-Capriccio Nel cor piu non mi sento Violin-Peter Sheppard Skaerved

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So an extraordinary combination of factors conspired to render Paganini’s regional concerts in Britain, truly motley experiences. This concert alone shuffles back and forth between full orchestral works, piano and violin, piano chamber music, operatic and popular arias, leading up to  the star billing playing unaccompanied, not a situation which would be tolerated in the classical world today.

Like many of his fellow promoters, ‘Mr Wellman’ was presumably trying to satisfy both the appetites and social pretensions of his audience; he is most concerned to inform the ‘Nobility and Gentry…’ of the performance. In 1976, Cyril Erlich noted the dilemma faced by musical organizations at the beginning of the 19th Century, as to whether to admit the newly successful mercantile class:

“Consider the dilemma of the Philharmonic Society’s directors in 1821, when faced by an application from the proprietor of a confectioners shop in Bishopsgate Street. Picture their relief at their sponsor’s assurance that, while he might ‘occasionally be sen in his Counting House like other mercantile men…I defy any person to prove they ever saw him serving in the shop; his is as much above such a thing, as a hundred,who would not disgrace the Philharmonic concerts.”

Lord Byron had been similarly concerned about the social condescension that was increasingly necessary to attend ‘popular’ concerts, that he would have to rub shoulders with

“The pert shopkeeper, whose throbbing ear aches with orchestras which he pays to hear…”

There was certainly no assurance, when Paganini gave his concerts in small venues in the provinces, that the ‘better class’ of audience might not find themselves rubbing shoulders with some one ‘in trade.’ One report noted that:

“Last night, when he made his final exit, a great portion of the aufience in the pit stood up, and waved their hats, and cheered heartily.” Such behaviour would have hardly seemed the correct behavious of ‘likely people’.

Some journals attempted to reassure their readers of  the classiness of Paganini’s audiences, as illustrated by an entry in the Windsor and Eton Express  on the 24 May 1834.

‘ Signor Pganini’s concert at the New Rooms on Tuesday evening, was attended by upwards of 200 of the most respectable inhabitans os Windsor, Eton and the neighbourhood; and the company -judging by the rapturous applause that follwed every performance of the Signor’s- was highly delighted and astonished.”

Such social neurosis was not helped by reports such as the following, which appeared in The Harmonicon about a year before Paganini arrived in London.

“The celebrated artists,  Paganini, was summoned this last autumn to perform before the Queen of Bavaria, at the castle of Tegernsee, a magnificent residence of the Kings of Bavaria, situated on the banks of a lake. At the moment the concert was about to begin, a great bustle was heard outside. The Queen having inquired the cause, she was informed that about sixty of the neighbouring peasnt, having being informed of the arrival of the famous Italian violinist, were come under the hope of hearing some of his notes, and requested that the windows should be opened, in order that they also might enjoy his talent. The Queen went beyond their wishes, and with truly good-nature, gave orders that they should all be admitted into the saloon, where she had the pleasure of remarking their discernment, and the judicious manner in which they applauded the most striking parts of this distinguished artist’s performance”.

Schloss Tegernsee, Bayern

The report in the Windsor and Eton Express notes that the audience for Paganini’s concert was relatively large; “Upwards of 200…” Until the changes in instrumental design at the end of the 1700′s, it is not uncommon to find soloists expressing unease at the possibility of playing solos to such large numbers of these. Writing on the 30th January 1801, the Count Zizendorf reported on Beethoven and Punto playing Beethoven’s wonderful Sonata op 17: “The grand concert for the benefit of the wounded in the large Redoutensaal…Punto’s hunting horn could not be heard at the back of the hall.”

The bottom of the  Southampton bill reveals the more prosaic nature of the rather self-aggrandising Mr Wellman. The small print reads:

“TICKETS. 7s, 6d, to be had at Mr Wellman’s Music Warehouse, 170 High Street.”

Concerts being promoted by music shop owners was certainly not uncommon. ‘Mr Weiss’, who promoted Pagnanini’s concerts in Liverpool, was in the same trade. A few years later, the prickly critic of the Tatler, Leigh Hunt, engaged in a fire fight with the English opera composer John Barnett, composer of The Mountain Sylph, as to whether his music had suffered since he became the proprietor of a music emporium.

The ‘Finale’ announced to the Southampton concert is ‘God Save the King‘ although it is not clear whether this is Paganini’s astonishing solo variations on this, which he played with the violin in a bizarre scordatura tuned down a major third, or the full company of instrumentalists and singers.

It would be a tantalising possibility that Paganini himself might have played his variations as an ornamentation to the full set of verses to the anthem, which at this point was not yet known as the ‘National Anthem’.  The full quota of verses for God Save the King   stretches to six verses, the last of which is perhaps one of the worst examples of English bigotry, exhorting Marshal Wade to success gainst the ‘unruly Scots.’ This goes far beyond the frustrating of the ‘Enemy’s’ ‘Knavish Tricks’ familiar from verse two. One hopes that Paganini was not so ill-advised as to play this on his trip around the Scottish provinces; however, bearing in mind hs skilful manipulation of the Imperial Court in Vienna., I am sure that this was well within his understanding.

July 1st Lucy Anderson,   George F. Anderson and ‘Silly Billy’

There are two references in the ‘Red Book’ to the husband and wife George Frederick Anderson  and Lucy Anderson (nee Philpot) . The first reference ‘pour London’ simply notes that George Anderson’s address in London, from the ‘end of March’ will be ’2 New Cavendish Street, Portland Place’.

New Cavendish Street today, looking pretty much the same as when Paganini walked there

George Anderson, born in 1793, was active as an orchestral leader, and married the virtuoso pianist Lucy Philpot, in 1820. She later became the piano tutor to both Queens Adelaide and Victoria and her family. I discovered her inscription in the extraordinary album kept by Eliza Wesley, underneath the entry for John Braham:

‘Lucy Anderson Pianiste and Instructress to Her Majesty Queen Victoria-August 3rd 1842

Lucy Anderson lived till 1876. Here, the ‘eminent pianist’ in later life

Lucy Anderson’s entry is even more succinct, but appears, to me, to be in her handwriting.

‘Madame Anderson/Pianiste a Londres’

Anderson was the piano student of the first Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, the multi-talented William Crotch, and the first woman to appear as piano soloist at the Philharmonic Society Concerts (in 1822). Anderson was not only the dedicatee of Hummel’s Grand Military Septet, but also renowned for her political and career savvy. She would have been a vital person for Paganini to know, not least for her royal connections. Paganini, encouraged by his secretary George Harrys, gave very careful though as to how the establishment needed to be ‘worked’ in London. Lucy Anderson and her husband would have been seen as important conquests.

In June of 1829, Paganini composed a Chant Patriotique  MS 62. The title page reads: “Composed on the occasion of the accession of his Brittanic Majesty, and King of Hannvoer, William IV/words by George Harrys.” Harrys, the ‘fiddler’s secretary’, also seems to have drive its publication, in a version for Voce, Choir and Piano, by the Hannover based firm of Bachmann and Nagel; it seems likely that he organised this publication without Paganini’s knowledge.

King William IV, by David Wilkie (Mendelssohn’s preferred British artist)

When William IV came to the throne, it was widely assumed that his would be a reign of liberal form, but it is clear that the inititiative with Paganini’s composition was to curry favour in advance of his arrival, rather than political idealism. Harry’s words give a good idea of the tenor of this work.

Oh fortunate day, what a day of ….!/Great King! You dry all of our tears!/You would best perceive our joy/If you could read in our hearts./The hand of the Divinity/Has crowned you to our acclaim./Receive the homage and tribute/Due to your magnaminity.”

One would hardly think that this could be possibly have been writteb for the King who inspired, if that is the word, the epithet ‘Silly Billy.’ The shameless pandering initially failed to add any lustre to Paganini’s cabinet of decorations, but in July 1831, Harrys’ plan achieved a degree of success.  The correspondent of The Court Journal reported: ‘ July 9th…Calling again in the evening, I found Paganini alone, and wrpapped up in his customary ari of abstraction. He looked the very model of a hermit. He was seated at his dinner and begged me to follow his example. After a few glasses of capital Bordeaux wine, he rose from table, went into the adjoining room from whence he presently came out  with an air of triumph, ‘Annello è venuto’ (the ring is come). This was the beautiful gift bestowed by his Majesty William IV, accompanied by a letter, in which the Royal donor was pleased to express, in high terms, his sense of the Signor’s unrivalled talents. Such occasions as this must, indeed, produce the most exciting gratification in the mind of a great artist…’ Two days later , Paganini wrote to Germi: “At the invitation of the King, I played at the Palace; now I am wearing a ring.l; his jeweller was here, to take measurements from a Finger-I stretched out the first finger of my right hand.”

Paganini seemed to have been much pleased at his Godlike gesture, but Harrys was unable to witness this small triumph; he was long fallen from grace.

July 3rd

Perhaps it is worth noting that this book can be seen as the most astonishing cross section of necessary connections for the touring musician of the period. Throughout the book, there are lists contacts and ‘indirizzi’. Some of these are truly tantalizing, such as entry 21 on Page-view 31. This says, simply:

21: Mr. Mendelssohn Bartoli, Lepziger Str. 3

Leipziger Strasse 3. Berlin

Not all the Mendelssohns were impressed upon hearing Paganini.  Fanny Mendelssohn wrote on March 9th 1829: “He had the look of an insane murderer, and the gesticulations of a monkey.” Her brother, however, played chamber music with Paganini in London.

Page 39 notes:

‘…to the care of Mr Stodart, Golden Square

This was the address of the Piano firm run by William Stodart, who in 1820 had introduced the wildly innovatory ‘compensating’ piano. The Broadwood firm had attempted to prevent the movement of frame and action due to temperature and humiditiy fluctuations.  William Stodart came to the conclusion that this movement was unavoidable, so in 1820 had his technicians James Thom and William Allen, attach hollow pipes onto the frame, brass tubes mounted about the brass strings, iron matched to the iron, so that changes in tension would be matched by the “compensation frame”, sothe instrument would (hopefully), not go out of tune.I have heard the result, which is that when the piano ‘compensates’ there is a rather alarming ‘pop’ from the instrument. All the same, this technology was in use till the 1850′s. Paganini was fascinated with instrument technology-so I imagine that he would have been fascinated by this.

The 1828 Stodart ‘compensating’ piano (at the Royal Academy of Music)-the label showing the ‘Golden Square’ address.

Charles Dickens later described the atmosphere which Paganini would have encountered in Golden Square, in Nicholas Nickelby:

Two or three violins and a wind instrument from the Opera band reside within its precincts. Its boarding-houses are musical, and the notes of pianos and harps float in the evening time round the head of the mournful statue, the guardian genius of a little wilderness of shrubs, in the centre of the square. On a summer’s night, windows are thrown open, and groups of swarthy moustached men are seen by the passer-by, lounging at the casements, and smoking fearfully. Sounds of gruff voices practising vocal music invade the evening’s silence; and the fumes of choice tobacco scent the air. There, snuff and cigars, and German pipes and flutes, and violins and violoncellos, divide the supremacy between them. It is the region of song and smoke. Street bands are on their mettle in Golden Square; and itinerant glee-singers quaver involuntarily as they raise their voices within its boundaries.

Paganini arrived in Dresden in Janury 1829 the Red Book includes a tantalising list of the musicians with whom he  worked there. Top of the list isCarl Gottlieb Reißiger, who had studied with Salieri in Vienna, and had been appointed Kapellmeister  at Dresden, succeeding Carl Maria von Weber, in 1828. Today, he is best known for a piano piece, Weber’s Last Waltz, which during his lifetime, was published in numerous pirated editions for every instrumental combination as Weber’s last thoughts. The cult of Weber was such , that there was a clamour for any last material from his pen, after his death in London in 1826. Dresden was the first major staging post on Paganini’s German tour, and he had been invited there by the composer Francesco Morlacchi (the first name on Paganini’s list of Dresden contacts), the director of the Opera Italiana. He, like Paganini, was a friend of Rossini.

Francesco Morlacchi

Paganini gave 5 concerts at the theatre in February.The newspapers in Dresden, Merkur and Der Abendzeitung  reacted positively to Paganini’s performance-but counselled young players to not imitate his style.

The Library of Congress also has a letter from Paganini to Morlacchi, written a year after the Dresden visit, on the subject of a manservant/travelling companion. This was an important issue for Paganini, as he was travelling with a child. These assistants came and went at some frequency, not surprisingly!

Carl Gottlieb Reißiger

Listed in the orchestra of the Opera Italiana, and three names below Morlacchi’s on Paganini’s ‘Dresden list’ is the composer/violinist Antonio Rolla. This would have been a good opportunity for Paganini to renew an old acquaintance.

A letter written from Palermo, on January 31 1820, notes that Paganini had met Giusseppe Antonio, the son of his old (composition) teacher Alessandro Rolla, and taken the opportunity ( to please his father) of playing duos with him. It was Paganini’s recommendation which had garnered Rolla the post of Konzertmeister  in Dresden in 1823.

Antonio Rolla


The name of ‘Ciandelli’ occurs a number of times in the ‘Red Book’. Paganini told his biographer Schottky:

“There is only one person, Gaetano Ciandelli of Naples, now about twenty four years of age, who knows my secret. He had formerly been a very mediocre player on the violoncello. As I took an interest in the young man, I communicated my discovery to him, with such beneficial effect that within three days he became an entirely different person, and people were lost in amazement over the sudden reformation of his playing. Whereas his tone had been so rasping that one’s ears ached, and his bowing that of the veriest novice, the tones were now pure, full and sweet; the stroke of the bow was under perfect control, and made the profoundest impression on his astonished hearers.”

In conversation with The Court Journal in London, Paganini told the story in greater detail, although the correspondent mangled the name, into ‘Niccolò Cindrelli’. I cannot help thinking of this error as fascinating-Ciandelli’s first name, has morphed into Paganini’s own, which his hardly surprising. His surname has undergone a fascinating transformation, whether in the hands of the correspondent, or the typesetter, unable to read or recognise the Italian name, to a form of ‘Cinderella’, who went through a similar, though perhaps more magical transformation-although, the notion of Paganini, as the Fairy Godmother, is maybe de trop. But let’s push this further. Up till 1785, the Cinderella story had existed, even in England, as the French ‘Cendrillon’, following on from Perrault’s Contes de Ma Mère L’Oye” which was published in 1697. It was not until 1785, that the name “Cinderella” appeared in a chapbook, Cinderella; or, the Little Glass Slipper, published by T. Evans-predating the Brothers Grimm’s savage Aschenputtel by some years. I would like to imagine that our typesetter, labouring away by bad light, was unable to read the script of the text handed to him, and allowed his mind to drift, perhaps influenced by the magical metamorphosis of which Paganini spoke, and a memory of, perhaps, the one book in his childhood home. Curiously, Paganini himself seemed to have loved telling such stories, in the very same interview, he told a savage fairy story worthy of the Brothers Grimm:

“A gentleman, who chanced to be making an excursion through a wood, had not penetrated far into its mysterious recesses before he was suddenly assailed by a monstrous wood, which, with the desperate impulse of hunger, made a spring at his throat, and fixed itself there. This appalling accident was encountered by the gentleman with admirable firmness and presence of mind. He in turn grasped hi gaunt adversary by the throat, which he compressed with all the muscular energy his arms could exert, and in this situation retraced his steps towards his home. When he entered within the threshold of his own door, his daughter, who advanced to met him, was nearly overcome with the horror of the sight,-but presently recovered herself, and then displayed a courage worthy of her father, by running for a knife, and rushing upon the voracious monster, which she despatched in her parent’s arms.”

But, back to our story, Paganini related:

“I happened, to be a Naples some years ago, where I met with a violoncello-player whom I had previously known, and known as one of the worst conceivable performers on that instrument, insomuch, that the pain of listening to him amounted to torture. The name of this tormentor was Niccolò Cindrelli (sic). I one day took into my head to offer him the means of escape from this predicament, by telling him that I would teach him to make his fortune, if he would pledge me his word to keep the secret, as I was anxious it should not be communicated to anyone else. He passed his word accordingly, and I went to work with him, and in three days instilled into him a totally different way of managing his bow, &c. These three days made him a new man, – so great was the advancement he made and so entirely had his awkward, vulgar, and rasping style disappeared. Of all this I said nothing to anyone, until , on the occasion of his being about to perform at a Concert, I made a point of going there before his arrival, and addressed myself to the assembled professors and amateurs, saying, ‘Gentlemen, you have here in Naples the first violoncello-player in the world!’ They were instantly al eager to know whom I could possibly mean; but when I name to them Signor Niccolò Cindrelli, a laughing chorus was the result. ‘But’ continued I, ‘You have not heard him.’-‘Yes, yes,’ replied they, ‘we have heard too much of him.’-‘How long may it be since you heard him?’-‘Oh! Six days agao.’-‘Well, well, you must hear him  now.’ In short, Signor Cindrelli came, and performed at the Concert, where he threw out such dashing tones, and extracted so much effect from his instrument, as to excite their wondering acclamations-so greatly were they all struck with the miracle of art which they deemed me to have effected in the person of that professor.”

Opinion seems divided as to whether Ciandelli became a masterly cellist in a very few days, or whether Paganini gave him a superhuman ability on the violin. Two pages of the ‘Red Book’ headed ‘Inventory of the Archive of NP’ include a list of letters-including a collection of materials pertaining to ‘Sigr Ciandelli’. On one of them, Ciandelli is listed under ‘suonatore’, performers, which is most likely a list of players with whom Paganini could indulge in his favourite, and private pastime, chamber music.

An Architect in Karlsruhe

There is a solitary, laconic reference to architecture in the ‘Red Book’. It reads, simply:

‘Architect Heiss at Karlsruhe’

Paganini arrived in Karlsruhe  before sending Luigi Germi a letter on the 12th December 1829 detailing the enormous profits that he had made on his tour so far – Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Berlin, Warsaw, Breslau, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Nuremberg, Monaco, Stuttgart – totalling 99,979 francs.

Hoftheater Karlsruhe, built by Weinbrenner 1810, destroyed by fire in 1847. Paganini gave his concert here in December 1829

Hoftheater Karlsruhe, built by Weinbrenner 1810, destroyed by fire in 1847. Paganini gave his concert here in December 1829

The concert which he had given the night before, under the patronage of the Grand Duke, had netted him 150 Louis d’Ors. It seems that he had run across the architect ‘Heiss’, his first name seems unclear, but records indicate that he was active in the city, in the early 1830s,  and had designed the Weinbrenner-Schule, named for the architect Friedrich Weinbrenner (1766-1826), responsible for the Rathaus, Markgräfliches Palais, and many other of the neo-classical buildings that graced the city. Heiss, it seems, was also know for the quality of his perspective drawings.

Markgräfliches Palais

Paganini returned to Karlsruhe in  Februar 1831. He wrote to Germi on the 8th February:

 “I will not speak to you of the Magic which scattered from my violin at the concert on the 5th…”

Schottky, an authorised biographer

An entire page is given up to the following:

Le Professeur/Jules Maximilien Schottky/de Berlin,/qui a ecrive [sic] la Biographie/de Mr Paganini/Prague le 8me Janvier 1829.

On the 12th of the same month, Paganini wrote a testimonial for Schottky.

The signatory gives permission to Sig. Professore Schottky to publish the biography of me and enjoins that it might be done, if possible to defend me, and to discredit the calumnies of or my enemies./Niccolo Paganini

The biography appeared in Prague the following year as  Paganini’s Leben und Treiben als Künstler und als Mensch : mit unpartheiischer Berücksichtigung d. Meinungen seiner Anhänger u. Gegner. Julius Maximilien Schottky (1795-1848) was born in Upper Silesia, was a law student in Breslau, before turning his attention to Medieval Studies in Vienna.  He moved to Poznan in 1822, where he met Heinrich Heine, who was initially impressed with his research into a history of the Germans in the medieval people. However, their approaches were mutually exclusive, and Heine was suspicious that Schottky was not immersed enough in truly German culture-what he called ‘the whisper of German oaks’. Schottky’s pedagogical and scholarly researches seemed doomed to failure. Appointed by the Prussian government as professor of German literature and language at the Gymnasium, Schottky was mercilessly tormented by his students, who left a herring ringed by potatoes on his desk, with the inscription:

‘Out of Herring Tails and Potatoes is Schottky’s Laurel Wreath composed’

Schottky was based in Prague from 1828-31, studying medieval Bohemia, before moving the Munich, where he focused on art history. It is clear that his failure as a teacher led to an itinerant lifestyle, and the need to write a commercially viable biography of a popular artist. In the last years of his life, he was editor of the Trierer Zeitung.Julius Schottky noted :

“Very often in his discussions with me, Paganini reiterated that once he was finished with this travels and had retired to some peace, then he intended to tell furnish the world, with a musical secret, which hitherto was not to be learnt in any conservatoire.”

Paganini’s ‘secret’ was and continues to the be the subject of fevered speculation. Some hoped that it was to be found in the pages of the ‘red notebook’, but the only secrets squirrelled away here appear to be recipes!


Writing a Letter to Guhr

One of the pages of the ‘Red Book’ is simply a list of letters written in 1830 whilst Paganini was in Hamburg, where Heinrich Heine heard him play the first of his three ‘academies’ on the 12th June. Heine wrote:

“ his face, even more skeletal in the dim light of the stage, was suffused with the most incredible pain and humility that a tremendous feeling of compassion overcame our desire to laugh./Had he learnt his demeanour from an automation or a dog? Was his beseeching gaze that of an invalid at death’s door or did it hide the mocking face of a shrewd miser? Was this a living being who was about to die and whose task was to entertain the public with his convulsions in the arena of art, like a doomed gladiator? Or was he a ghost from beyond the tomb, a violin-playing vampire who was sucking out the money from our pockets, if not the blood from our hearts?”

The list has been deleted, but is legible nonetheless. The first two lines read:

“21st June I wrote from Hamburg to Frankfurt to Mr Guhr.”

This is the only surviving reference, in Paganini’s hand, as far as I am aware to his friendship and collaboration with theFrankfurt composer, violinist, theatre director and Kapellmeister Karl Guhr (1797-1848).

Guhr’s Theatre in Frankfurt (Photo from 1902)

Karl Wilhelm Guhr , was possessed of many qualities which would have impressed Paganini during his visits in Frankfurt. Like Paganini, he was renowned as an orchestral disciplinarian, which resulted in uniquely well prepared performances. Guhr also was also an inveterate showman. In order to demonstrate the power of the newly installed gas lamps in his theatre, which tortured Paganini’s sensitive eyes, he organised to have them all turned up full at the words “Let there be Light,” at the beginning of a performance of  Haydn’s The Creation.  Guhr was, however, not a fan of the work of Hector Berlioz, and it was not until his death in 1848, that the great composer was able to work freely at the Frankfurt Theatre.

Guhr was also a Bach enthusiast, and a collector of his manuscripts-in this, he was ahead of his time. In June 1839, Felix Mendelssohn reported that Guhr had shown him autographs of a Bach Passacaglia  and a number of Chorale Preludes . In letter written to Fanny written on the 19th June that year, he recorded that he was invited, to his great pleasure, to take one of these priceless autograph as a gift. Guhr’s qualities and his particular ability with Mozart, which was noted by Wagner, have been somewhat overlooked because of the extensive study that he made of Paganini.

Guhr’s Uber Paganinis Kunst die Violine zu Spielen; ein Anhang zu jeder bis jetz erschienen Violin-Schule nebst eier Abhandlung über das Flageoletspiel in einfachen und Doppeltönen, den Heroen der Violine Rode, Kreutzer, Baillot, Spohr was dedicxated to the violinists, Baillot, Kreutzer, Spohr, and Rode, a broad church, illustrating, how Guhr felt that Paganini’s impact streched across the various schools of playing. When Guhr’s extraordinary work was published in Britain, it was not translated, but published with alternate pages blank, and summarises each paragraph on the blank pages. It almost seems as if the publishers presumed that any musician advanced enough to use the Kunst die Violine zu spielen…, would be able to read German. However, perhaps the single most interesting aspect of this work is that it reveals that the author hard heard  Paganini play his Capricci. There has not, to date, been found a single programme nor playbill which provides any concrete evidence that Paganini played any of his Op 1  in public. However, Guhr includes, on page 9, Paganini’s performance  scordatura  for the 19th Caprice, with the whole violin tuned up a minor 3rd, in the manner of Bach’s  Brandenburg Concerto No 1 and Paganini’s own Moses Fantasie. This would not have been necessary, unless Paganini was aiming to render the piece powerful enough for the stage. There are no scordature indicated in any of the 24 Capricci. 
Included in Guhr’s monumental work on Paganini’s technique, was his notation of Paganini’s Nel Cor Piu non mi sento. This is a far more substantial work than the MS version which ‘Magdeburg MS’. which I have included above. Here it is.
Paganini  Nel Cor Piu non mi sento (As recorded by Carl Guhr).
Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Recording courtesy of Jonathan Haskell-Astounding Sounds)

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Fascinatingly, there seems to be considerable resistance to the notion of Paganini as an improviser. A collector that I spoke to was most put out when I suggested that there really was no contradiction between the 1820 version of the Nel Cor piu Non mi sento varations, the so called “Magdeburg” version, and the version which is played today, which was set down by ear, nota bene, by Karl Guhr during or after Paganini’s first visit to Frankfurt in 1828. Quite clearly, one is a composition, the other an act of improvisation, enfolding another reading of the composition, oddly redolent of the semi-improvised  premiere of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia. However, this does not sit well with the notion of Paganini as executant, interpreter of his own music, particularly with the modern notion of virtuosity, and my interloctur denied that Paganini would have had the ability to improvise the opening section, despite it being entirely based on diminished 7th chords.There is a third set of variations on this theme which bears almost no resemblance to the two unaccompanied versions. In cuor piu non mi sento (MS 117) is scored for solo violin accompanied by violin and cello, which I have examined in the British Library. This is certainly not chamber music, as the two accompanying parts do absolutely no more than fill in harmony. The only indication of the date of this work, is an letter which Paganini sent with the Manuscript ‘ To my dear LG Germi, Chez Lui. Dear Friend. Here you have the variations so as not to break my word, and in order to wish for myself a delightful evening with you and with the most lovable Signora Camilla. From your Paganini. Thursday 19th February 1835.’

Heinrich Panofka-violin virtuoso turns singing coach

Heinrich Panofka, in his later life as a successful vocal coach in London

One page of the ‘Red Book’ is headed up ‘July 1829/ at Breslau.’ There then follows a list of contacts, including the Kapellmeister Schnabel, and ‘Panofka.Violin.’ (This page, by the way, is in French). The career of  Breslau-born violinist Heinrich Panofka (1807-1887) followed a trajectory which reflects the fascinating interchange between string and vocal techinique in the first part of the 19th Century. Panofka was one of the most distinguished students of the Viennese virtuoso and composer Josef Mayseder.

 In 1800, the  young Viennese violinist, the son of an impoverished painter, gave a spectacular debut at the Augarten. Josef Mayseder (1789-1863) was just eleven years old, and a student of Anton Wranitzky (1761-1820). Like Beethoven, Wranitzky had studied composition with Haydn and Albrechtsburger; he was now Prince Lobkowitz’ Kapellmeister, and also the teacher of Ignaz Schuppanzigh (1776-1830), with whom Beethoven had begun a collaboration from the moment of arriving in Vienna in 1792(As well as premiering all of Beethoven’s quartets, Schuppanzigh also premiered all of Beethoven’s earlier sonatas for piano with violin, Op 12, Op 23, Op 24 and Op 30). Within a few years, Mayseder was doing distinguished service in Schuppanzigh’s quartet. Beethoven held the gifted teenager in the highest esteem, referring to him as the ‘genius boy’. In 1814 Mayseder led the first performance of a mass in F major by a young composer, the first commission received by a gifted 17-year-old young student of Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), Franz Schubert (1797-1828). By the age of twenty years old, Mayseder was given the gold ‘Salvatormedal’ by the city of Vienna, and the freedom of the city five years later. In 1820, he was appointed the solo violinist to the imperial court. By the time of the Congress of Vienna, Mayseder had achieved huge popular acclaim as the composer of Polonaises, the craze of the moment, and for a while, his renown as a dance composer eclipsed his justifiable fame as a virtuoso. He was a pallbearer at Beethoven’s funeral. In his transcription of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Joseph Joachim even requested that one particular polonaise-like section be played à la Mayseder. His extraordinary Grosse Sonata Konzertirend dates from the time of the concert series that he gave with Giulani and Hummel, the Dukaten Konzerte, and was most likely written for him to play with Hummel, which probably goes a long way to explain its punishing piano writing.

Panofka arrived in Vienna in 1824 to study with Mayseder, and made a notable debut in the Redoutensaale  three years later. In 1829, he was giving concerts in Berlin and Munich, and in 1832. In the later 1830′s he took up vocal studies in Paris, where in 1842, he founded an ill-fated ‘Academie de Chant des Amatuers’ , which failed. He moved to London, where he was engaged by the impresario Lumley as the assistant conductor of the ‘Italian Opera’ in 1847.

As might be expected his compositional output is divided between his earlier virtuoso violin works and didactic vocal materials. He wrote one work in explicit imitation of Paganini’s ‘Carnival of Venice’, a ‘Carnival of Naples’. Ironically, he dedicated this to Wilhelm Ernst, who had built his reputation on his own version of Paganini’s showpiece.

Panofka’s ‘Carnival of Naples’

Some addresses in Paris

One page is headed up:

‘Letters of recommendation for Paris’

One of these leapt out at me:

‘Le Chevl. Lemaire/Dentiste’

Maximilian I of Bavaria presented this chest of instruments to Lemaire in 1825

From October 1828, Paganini began to report serious problems with his teeth. Taking a water cure in Karlsbad, where he had given two concerts, his treatment was violently interrupted by a violent inflammation of the saliva glands on his left gum, which necessitated an operation by four surgeons. Three months later, he again reported that he had endured a surgical intervention in Prague. It seems to have escaped many commentators how many violinists endure dental trouble on the left hand side of the jaw. What Paganini was enduring was a problem which, without modern dental care, would be intolerable. Speaking for myself, I have experienced a left molar completely splitting, from top to bottom, in the course of a somewhat over energetic performance of the piano trio version of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in London. The dental problems endured by violinists only increased with the use of the chin to grip the violin against the collar bone, or shoulder, and the consequent exposure of the jaw to vibration and the impact of energetic playing.

Joseph Jean Baptiste Lemaire was the most celebrated dentist/oral surgeon in Paris (in London, Paganini would seek out Samuel Cartwright), born into a medical family in Brest in 1784. His practice in Paris was on rue de Richelieu, and he was on the Faculty of Medicine of the University. His patients ranged from Josephine Beaumarchais to Popel Pius VII, and in 1833, he became the personal dentist of King Louis Philippe.


Lemaire’s personalised attache case – complete with an internal compartment for quill pens

A Parisian Collaboration 

On (scan) pages 63-4 of the Red Book, there is the solitary example of a letter of recommendation (in the Book) from Paganini himself, headed:

Paris. 29 April 1831/Letter of thanks to Mr Habeneck/Chef  de l’orchestre del’academie royale

Paganini’s collaboration with Francoise Antoine Habeneck was one of equals, after their initial collaboration in Paris in 1831, they worked together regularly, and more to the point, Habeneck, whom Paganini addressed affectionately as ‘ ‘Abnek‘, was the only musician to whom he sent copies of the full scores of his works. Bearing in mind that he did not even let other musicians see  his scores, this was a compliment indeed.

After hearing Habeneck conduct the Société des Concerts in 1832 Mendelssohn, wrote:

“Every orchestra really ought to be like this…the school ofBaillot, Rode and Kreutzer furnishes them with violinists…all with the same bowing, playing with the same serenity and fire”.[1] Mendelssohn was not only keen to give his stamp of approval to the new technique of organised bowing, but most particularly to note the advantage of an entire orchestra, and most particularly the strings, where all of the players originated in pedagogical school.

The Revue Musicale described the impact of his methods of direction and orchestral training:

“Habeneck conducts the concerts from the bow…the arrangement of the orchestra allowing him to transmit his flame to the musicians, as he can look at them.” Mendelssohn first played with Habeneck in 1832.  He was as impressed as Paganini, who played with the Societé on a number of occasions and reported his impressions to his old teacher, Zelter: “Every orchestra really ought to be like this; wrong notes and rhythms should be eliminated once and for all, but since this is unfortunately never the case, this one is the best that I have ever heard.”[1] [1]


François Antoine Habeneck-12 Preludes Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin Stradivari 1699 

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Engineer-Jonathan Haskell (Astounding Sounds)

François Antoine Habeneck – at the beginning of an illustrious career

 The violinist François Antoine Habeneck was the first great string player to be entirely trained in the Paris Conservatoire.  Following his 1804 premier prix,  he was awarded the direction of les Exercises, the student orchestral concerts, for year. This was tremendously successful, and at the end of this year, a delegation of professors demanded that his tenure be made a permanent one. This offered him an opportunity to  develope new ideas and techniques for presenting the modern Viennese repertoire.

Without Habeneck, there would never have been a true orchestral tradition built in France, and that in 1813, the Philharmonic Society in London would have been ‘going it alone’.

In 1807, the Allgemeine Musikalisches Zeitung in Vienna noted the success of Habeneck’s work with the conservatoire orchestra.  His name was not famous outside Frances, so much of his success was put down to Cherubini’s leadership. However, the article speaks of Habeneck’s understanding in Beethoven’s orchestral works, which had grown, along with his players’ expertise, in the years immediately following his 1804 ­premier prix:

            “Cherubini, with the collaboration of several faithful colleagues and teachers, has imparted to the zeal of the conservatoire students not only impetus, but a new direction…the Beethoven Symphonies.  The 1st received a masterly performance.  Since this work is very lively and easy to understand….some applause was to be expected, but no one expected such a large success as this.”

In 1809, the amateur, the Baron de Trémont, then ‘Auditor to the Council of State’, came to Vienna after the bombardment of that city. He sought out Beethoven, and offered to defray the cost his visit to Paris; a visit which never happened. The great composer was very aware of the new orchestral standards that Habeneck was pioneeringat the Conservtoire:

           “I should like to hear Mozart’s symphonies – (he mentioned neither his own nor those of Haydn) – in Paris; I am told that they are played better at the Conservatoire than anywhere else.”

IN 1826 Habeneck initiated the Société des Concerts with a rehearsal of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, in 1826. This replaced the long – defunct Concerts Spirituels.   Vidal takes up the story:

 “In November 1826, on St Cecilia’s day, he organised a meal at his home for the most fervent ones, and he begged them to bring their instruments.  The guests arrived, and they found the parts for a ‘heroic symphony’, unknown to them all, on the music stands.  Habeneck asked for a reading; so they set to work; the day passed in the in the enthusiasm of labour.   Four hours passed; everyone, host and guests, had forgotten about lunch, which Madame Habeneck, guessing what would happen, had taken care not to let go cold. She transformed it into an excellent supper, to which the hardy symphonists did honour, all thinking it excellent.  The result, due to the tenacity and intelligence of Habeneck and sanctioned by the public, was the first seed of our admirable Société des Concerts, which was not long in being organised.  The first took place in the actual hall, on Sunday 9th March at 1828, at two o’clock, and began the evenings with the ‘Heroic Symphony’ of which we have just been speaking.”

Hector Berlioz remembered the struggle that began with Habeneck’s appointment to the conservatoire Exercises in 1804, up to and beyond the founding of the Société des Concerts in February 1828:

“It is thanks to him that his great institution, today famous throughout the civilised world, was founded at all.  It was a hard struggle; and before he could secure adequate performances, he had to persuade a large body of players to share his enthusiasm for totally unfamiliar music which had the reputation of being eccentric and difficult to play; he had to overcome an indifference which turned to hostility at the prospect of endless rehearsals and unremunerative toil stretching ahead.”

Ironically, it was Habeneck’s innovation of the trained large orchestra that gave Berlioz the impetus for his very own ‘exercises’ in orchestral excess. Habeneck’s skill with large forces made works such as the Symphonie Fantastique possible.  But it was also Habeneck who later provided the institutional resistance which Berlioz later attempted to break down, most particularly as his work requires the true conductor, working with a full score, rather than a violinist, given to taking snuff during performances.

Perhaps the most visible Stradivarius, most regularly seen on the Paris, was the magnificent 1734 example that Habeneck played. He was able to use the sheer power of this instrument, to great advantage as an orchestral director. Unsurprisingly, he was not noted as chamber musician, so there were not many works for small groups written for him.  Only two quartets seem to have been dedicated to him during his lifetime-one by the gifted amateur, Georges Onslow (1784-1853), the other, a group of three by Zamboni, a conductor at the Théâtre Italièn.

Paganini’s letter of thanks begins:

I do not want to leave Paris without extending my appreciation to to you for the pains which you have taken in conducting my concerts, and the the talents which you have deployed to aid my in my triumph. ….. it is only in Paris that I have had the opportunity to hear the greatest orchestra in in Paris play my music as I wrote it, and to be perfectly accompanied.

In 1832, Paganini gave a concert with Habeneck’s orchestra for ‘the benefit of the poor’.

Habeneck directs Paganini’s April 1832 charity concert in Paris


A promising colleague in Hanover

At the beginning of June 1830, Paganini gave three concerts in Hanover. At his 3rd June concert, he played the first movement of his 1st Concerto, his Adagio Cantabile a doppio corde, his Preghira (Mose in Egitto)  and his Carnival of Venice. On the 5th June  played at the place of the Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Cambridge, who served as the Viceroy to Hanover, on behalf of his elder brothers George IV and William IV, from 1816 until the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.

What seems to have escaped every commentator was that the Duke of Cambridge was a violinist and a collector of Cremonese instruments He had also been a good friend of Giovanni Battista Viotti.who seems to have bought instruments from him. The Duke was anxious to reassure Viotti that he could care for his collection as it deserved. Instruments owned by the Duke included 5 Stradivari, A Montagna cello, Rogeri and Steiner.   On January 20th 1820, there was a fire at St James’s Palace, the Duke’s residence.

The 1709 Stradivari owned by the Duke of Cambridge, later played by Elgar’s violin student Marie Hall


The Duke wrote:

“Pray tell amico [The pet name for Viotti used by the Chinnery Cicle] that I… took down my Violins under my arm into my dining room…”  In 1821, the Duke wrote Viotti to ask him to send “more bows from Tourte le jeune, saying that the ones V himself used suited him perfectly…”









In Hanover, according to the ‘Red Book’ Paganini met:

‘the celebrated the professor of violin, Sgr. August Pott’

August Pott was born in 180s, in Hanover his father was the Nordheim ‘Stadmusikus. After Spohr was appointed as Hofkapelleister in Cassel, he went there to study, and made his debut in the city in 1824.He was made a member of the Royal Swedish Music Academy in 1831, and was named professor of music by Fredrik VII in Denmark.  In 1832, he became the Konzertmeister to the Duke of Oldenburg, where he later became Kapellmeister. In 1838 he made a great impression playing the Lipinksi concerto at the Philharnonic Society in London. He resigned his post in Oldenburg in 1861, and died in 1883 in Graz. At the end of his life, he was the teacher of Marie Soldat, who later studied with Joseph Joachim, and for years was the only woman to play the Brahms Concerto.

The Young virtuoso, August Pott

Pioneering violinist-Marie Soldat


A Connection to Clara Schumann

The name Karl Möser occurs repeatedly in the pages devoted to Berlin in the ‘Red Book’. On the list of ‘Commendatazione per Berlino’, he is listed as:

11.Mr Möser[‘t’ crossed out-a slip of Paganini’s pen had made the obvious mistake’] Primo Violino

On Monday 6th April 1829, Paganini gave a concert at the Royal Opera House in Berlin. The concert was advertised to be ‘unter Direktion des Musik- Directors Herrn C. Möser’. Möser appears on a number of the list of complimentary tickets for other concerts in Berlin in the Red Book, such as a page headed up:

 1829, Biglietti Gratis. Berlino 1o Accadamia il 4. Marz….. Möser 1o Violino…2

This provides an interesting link to Clara Schumann. When Clara Wieck made her first appearances in Berlin, she was accompanied by the renowned quartet led by Möser. He had been appointed Konzertmeister by Wilhelm II in 1811, and started a series of renowned Quartette-Abende in 1813. He was appointed Kapellmeister in 1825. Clara’s father, who managed her touring, was outraged that W Möser and his quartet had the temerity to ask for 15 complimentary tickets her concerts, and publicised this, and his outraged, and  anti-semitic, refusal.

Clara Wieck in 1832 (Fechner)

Clara first met Paganini during her first visit to Paris in 1832. Unfortunately for her, the concert of his that she was invited to play in, was cancelled due to his illness. For Robert’s twenty-second birthday, she gave a special performance of his Paganini Etudes Op 3 for him.  It seems that the long shadow of Paganini had a signal effect on Clara’s music. In 1835, she composed her ­Quatre pieces Charactéristiques Op 5. The first movement Impromptu, Le Sabbat  was published as Hexentanz in Vienna in 1838, and was enormously popular. The title of the last movement seems to evoke both Paganini and Berlioz-Scène Fantastique: Le Ballet des revenants (the gender of this makes it clear that the vampires are male-the use of Fantastique points explicitly to the last movement of Berlioz’ great symphony, where the composer himself awakes after death, finding himself a revenant.