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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Conservatory of Music


In 1817, at the height of his career, Paganini was invited to play in Vienna. This invitation was considered, by him, an important honor. Not only was it issued by the celebrated Count Metternich, but also, the play in Vienna, the centre of German musical culture, was the aspiration of every performing artist of the time.

Spohr was the accepted master of the German violin world and Paganini had many misgivings concerning the reception which might be accorded an Italian violinist with a strange, and hitherto unheard of, style. Spohr and Paganini had met in Venice and had not found themselves an rapport, musically. Sophr “...regarded the Italian School as superficial. He had an antipathy to harmonics and anything that had the slightest suggestion of trickery or studied effort. Paganini, on the contrary, regarded everything as legitimate that stirred the emotions.” Paganini was well aware of Sophr’s great qualities as an artist, but he also was aware of his own unique power to stir an audience and felt some confidence in his ability to succeed in Vienna as he had throughout Italy. So, after a slight delay of eleven years, caused by ill health, marital difficulties, and business matters, he accepted Count Metternich’s invitation and journeyed to Vienna. Then, instead of giving the one concert for which he was engaged, he was obliged to give twenty. In the vernacular of our day, he “wowed” the Viennese public. This public, by the way, included Franz Sohubert, who according to contemporary accounts was much affected by Paganini’s music and said to his friend Bauernfeld that he had heard an angel sing. Castelli, one of the influential critics of the time, wrote in the “Theaterzeitung” - “...never has an artist caused such a great sensation within our walls as this God of the Violin.”

Just one hundred years later a young Russian boy appeared on the American concert stage and created a sensation comparable to that which Paganini has aroused in Vienna a century later. Thus was, of course, Jascha Heifetz. The hundred years from Paganini to Heifetz encompass the entire history of virtuoso violin playing. Whether, during this time, violin technique developed, or whether it has merely changed to accommodate itself to changing conditions, is open to question. The purpose of this discussion is not to resolve this question, but to trace the course of the changing technique of playing and give credit to those forces which have been instrumental in bringing it about.



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