18. Paganini: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
The demon violinist Nicolò Paganini astonished Italy and then the rest of Europe by his feats on the instrument. His phenomenal technique suggested the help of the Devil, well known to be an expert on such a devilishly difficult instrument. Paganini rebutted the popular notion of diabolical assistance, substituting the rumour that his mother, before his birth, had been told by an angel that she would bear a child of miraculous musical ability. By whatever means, he significantly extended the possibilities of the violin and wrote for his own use a series of concertos and showpieces to demonstrate his command. Paganini, with his sinister aquiline features and hunched shoulder, shadowed by his English manservant Harris, popularly supposed to be Mephistopheles himself, reflected one aspect of 19th century romanticism. His influence as a virtuoso inspired others to equal feats, including the young pianist Liszt, who took Paganini's work as the basis of a set of his own studies and in his career as a performer had an equally strong effect on audiences.
Paganini: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, with the violinist Ilya Kaler and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra under Stephen Gunzenhauser.