June 2013
15 black and white, 14 line illustrations
303 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843837565
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC MUS000000, MUS006000, BIO004000


The 'Demonic' Virtuoso

Mai Kawabata

Separating fact from fiction, this book explores how the legendary violinist challenged the very notion of what it meant to be a musician.
Our inherited image of Nicolo Paganini as a 'demonic violinist' has never been analysed in depth. What really made him 'demonic'? This book investigates the legend of Paganini. Separating fact from fiction, it explains how the virtuoso violinist challenged the very notion of what it meant to be a musician.
Mai Kawabata considers Paganini's performance innovations, violin techniques and musical ethos in the light of contemporary attitudes towards music and the supernatural, gender, sexuality, violence, heroism and masculinity as well as conceptions of power. The many perceptions of Paganini as demonic - Faust, magician, devil, rake/libertine, Napoleon - were inter-related but not equivalent. A swirl of cultural factors coalesced in the performer to create that phenomenon of Romanticism, a larger-than-life Gothic villain. Kawabata shows how the idea of virtuosity spiralled out of control, acquiring a potent, overwhelmingly negative aura in the process, as the mythology surrounding Paganini outlived and outgrew the man to monstrous proportions. An appendix brings together late nineteenth-century British press and literature coverage of Paganini that contributed to the developing myth surrounding the now famous composer and performer.

MAI KAWABATA is Lecturer in Music at the University of East Anglia and a professional violinist.
Keywords: Music

Table of Contents

'Demonic' Violinist, Magical Virtuosity
Hypereroticism and Violence
Sovereignty, Domination, and Conquest
Paganini's Legacies
Epilogue: Paganinian Mythology
Appendix: Paganiniana in the British Press (1840-1900)


The wealth of primary source materials, the original approach to the subject matter, and the convincing analyses of Paganini's music and performance style make this book a valuable contribution to the Paganini literature. MUSIC AND LETTERS

Fascinating. MUSICAL TIMES