A Physiological Study of Nicolo Paganini’s Technique, A different perspective on the Violin Playing of the Nineteenth Century

Laura andriani

Laura Andriani

Trefwoorden: violin, paganini, posture, HIPP, '800
Looptijd: Gestart in 2023
Type musicus: strijker
Universiteit: KU Leuven

Paganini’s repertoire has always been considered the summit of the violin technique. Nowadays, the violin repertoire of the nineteenth century is not often considered with historically informed criteria. The common thinking is that a HIPP approach should be mainly reserved for earlier repertoire because dealing with further levels of difficulties would be inconceivable. A fundamental part of this research consists of the practical demonstration that the premise of an ancient technique is the key to the most agile and advanced playing.

A few years ago, Laura started considering Paganini’s technique as an evolution of previous body approaches on the violin, trying to ignore what contemporary schools promote. Her starting point was that Paganini (1782-1840) never had a shoulder and chin rest. He played on gut strings and used different models of bows. The instruments he handled and his peculiar posture, reproduced in many sources, initially guided her. She also compared his compositions to what his predecessors had written before him, in particular Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764), comparing Locatelli’s 24 Capricci (1733) and Paganini’s (1817-20).

Recently, she released her recording of the 24 Caprices by Paganini under the label Passacaille. In this recording, she tried to reconstruct what Paganini’s technique could look like. Laura used gut strings accurately reproduced as indicated in documents containing orders made by Paganini and historical bows. She also experimented with how posture and gestures could influence the musical result, trying to respect what she explored through descriptions found in letters and documents as much as possible.

Paganini’s elaboration of the technical elements developed by the greatest Italian baroque masters opens an important pathway to better orientate technically and aesthetically in the nineteenth-century violin repertoire.

Laura considers her recording as a starting point to open new research on how we can face the nineteenth-century violin repertoire with historical coherency: if it is possible to perform the most difficult repertoire using the instruments of that time, we can deal with this evolved advanced repertoire in respecting how the violinists used to play.