CONGRESS OF THE ODD
NICCOLO PAGANINI – The Devil’s Violinist
Niccolò Paganini, born October 27, 1782, is still considered by many the greatest violin virtuosi to have ever lived. While the 19th century saw several extraordinary violinists, the Italian Paganini was so beyond his peers that it was rumored by his contemporaries that he had sold his soul to the devil.
Paganini first learned to play the mandolin from his father at the age of five before moving on to the violin. He began composing at seven and, by the age of 12, he was performing publicly. At the age of sixteen, Paganini had a breakdown of sorts and disappeared into alcoholism. Eventually, with the aid of an unnamed female benefactor, he managed to quit drinking. Once sober, he sequestered himself away for three years and studied the violin obsessively. When he returned to the public eye at the age of 22, he became the first music superstar.Paganini was capable of playing three octaves across four strings in a hand span, a nearly impossible feat, even by today’s standards.
His flexibility and exceptionally long fingers have resulted in speculation that he may have had Marfan syndrome, a genetic mutation not identified until 1899 that results in elongated fingers and other unique traits. Others have conjectured that he had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, commonly know as Rubber Man Syndrome, and still other attribute his abilities to his instrument – dubbed The Cannon.In the early 1830’s Paganini’s health began to rapidly deteriorate. But 1834 he was no longer had the stamina to play his violin and he retired from public performance. The great violinist to ever live died in Nice on May 27, 1840.
image: Paganini Daguerrotype 1840s
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J Tithonus Pednaud has dedicated this site to highlighting the remarkable lives of those born exceedingly different. These so-called freaks and human oddities stand as uplifting testaments to human spirit and serve as inspiring examples of human tenacity.