Niccolò Paganini (1750-1825)
Sonatas for Violin and Guitar
Until the end of the last century, Paganini was recognised almost exclusively as a soloist, and only recent editions of previously unpublished works have made it possible to acknowledge the genius and originality of his contribution to chamber music. In fact, Paganini has proven to be one of the major exponents of the chamber repertoire for guitar. To it he dedicated fifteen quartets with violin, viola and cello, and in these works he demonstrates his ability to write for the six-stringed instrument masterfully. Particularly noteworthy is the body of 18 sonatas for violin and guitar composed after 1828 and commonly referred to as “Il Centone”. In these works, the violin predominates for the most part, but the author nonetheless avoids a virtuosic handling of the protagonist in favour of a greater balance between the two instruments, as well as a greater blend of timbres. In “Il Centone”, the term “sonata” is understood in its most archaic sense, indicating a piece conceived for an instrumental, as opposed to a vocal, performance. Thus it would be completely erroneous to seek in these compositions the connotations (albeit embryonic) of the classical sonata form, with its double-thematic and tripartite structure. The Beethoven-style sonata was composed largely by musicians beyond the Alps and was not unknown to Paganini. It would seem, however, that our author chose a more narrow focus, and the musical result is in no way penalised by this choice. The combination of the guitar and the violin is still today an unusual chamber ensemble, which is not often heard in concert.