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March 13, 1967

Paganini: The Riddle and Connective Tissue

Author Affiliations

From the Section of Medicine, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation (Dr. Worthington), and the Department of Rheumatology, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, University of Minnesota (Dr. Smith), Rochester. Dr. Smith is now located in Walnut Creek, Calif.

JAMA. 1967;199(11):820-824. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120110092014

Paganini flashed across the musical heavens of Europe like a meteor, regarded as the "King of Violinists," "Demon of Fiddlers," "Virtuoso in Excelsis." Never has a musician created such a furor during his own time and long thereafter. His life and music were shrouded in secrecy, mystery, and legend. Largely self-taught as a violinist, he developed his own technique, enabling him to perform unprecedented feats with dazzling perfection. Not a single new device for the fiddle has been invented since; and the fact that the violin is one of the most difficult instruments to master makes his accomplishments even more amazing.1

There is a near-law in music that lasting greatness is achieved only by composers. Paganini is the outstanding exception, being remembered as a virtuoso and a revolutionary technical innovator.2 He was a talented composer also; but we are less familiar with his compositions because they are seldom