Friday, October 19, 2012

Paganini - Violin Concerto No. 3 In E Major

Paganini began making his reputation as early as 1813 before he toured Europe. His reputation was made in tours of his native country of Italy.  His First Violin Concerto was the only one of his own that he performed until he made serious plans to tour Europe in the 1820's.  He rapidly composed two more violin concertos for his planned tour, Number Two in B minor and Number Three in E Major.

Paganini began his European tour in Vienna in 1828 and performed these three concertos to great acclaim. Paganini would distribute the orchestral parts of the concertos only at the last minute and always played his solo part from memory. In those days before copyright, music was constantly being 'pirated' by music publishers with the composer getting nothing in return for their work. Paganini amassed a large fortune from his concert tours, not least of all because he was so secretive with his music.

All three of these concertos follow the same general plan of three movements, as do contemporary works of the genre.  These concertos are Italianate in style, like the music of Paganini's countrymen Rossini and Donizetti. The middle slow movements of the concertos are like short operatic scenes for violin and orchestra, while the first and last movements are more involved.  As Paganini was the violin virtuoso of his age, the solo violin parts ask for a brilliant technique that covers all aspects of violin playing. They are still demanding works to play nearly 200 years after their composition, so it's no wonder that Paganini caused such a furor with his playing of them. The music world had never seen or heard the likes of Paganini before.

Violin Concerto No. Three begins with an introduction for orchestra, as do the first two concertos.  The orchestra then proceeds with the exposition of the first movement. Paganini's orchestration is colorful, straightforward and competent, but with a difference in timbre perhaps caused by Paganini using the guitar as his preferred instrument for composing. Berlioz also played the guitar, and his orchestrations have a slightly different sound also. The violin enters and immediately takes center stage as the orchestra takes its role as accompaniment.  The solo violin expands on the themes earlier stated by the orchestra until a place for a cadenza is reached, after which the orchestra brings the movement to a close.

The 2nd movement is a sweet aria for violin and pizzicato strings with the woodwinds adding pastel colors.

The 3rd movement is a Rondo in the tempo of a polonaise, a Polish dance.  The violin dialogues with the orchestra in different episodes between repeats of the main theme. Paganini uses left-hand pizzicati, flying bow work, double stops, harmonics, the whole gamut of  pyrotechnics for the violin until the work comes to a close.


  1. From Chile, I would to thank you enthusiastically for the excellent selection of music I've found on your site.
    Well done.

  2. Thank you both for the information and the concert itself. Magnificent work!

  3. Such excellent violin , i enjoyed it very much. Thank you from the Netherlands

  4. This is the first time I am hearing this third violin concerto of Paganini. It is a real tour de force, much in the same way as a Liszt piano concerto would sound. Accardo is excellent with London and Dutoit. I have a 1968 pressing of the first two violin concerti with Yehudi Menuhin and the Royal Philjarmonic under Rudolf Erede. Please do visit my blog if you are interested in good

  5. Wonderful research on this great concerto, and excellent insightful writing. Would you know how I could obtain the sheet music to Maestro Accardo and Szeryng's cadenzas to this piece? Thank you!
    Best wishes,
    Nate Robinson

    1. Greetings Nate!
      Thank you for visiting Musical Musings. I've visited your site and watched your video. You play extremely well, and the Saint-Saëns no less, a most brilliant (and technically demanding) work! Bravo! (I've written a post about the work

      No luck on the cadenzas you mentioned. I suspect that as they were written by the soloists that they wouldn't necessarily want them published, for many reasons. In any case, I can find no trace that they are available.

      I've visited your Facebook page, and am now following you. I notice you have many more videos, so I plan to listen to some more of them soon. In the future I would like to link one of your performances to a blog post I've written. May I?

      A fellow music lover
      Alan Beggerow

    2. Dear Alan,
      Thank you for your reply and for the kind words on my videos. Please feel free to use my videos in any of your blog postings. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

      All best,