9. Nicolo Paganini
(born 10-27-1782 – died 5-27-1840)
Nicolo Paganini is one of the greatest violin virtuosos to have ever lived. He learned to play the mandolin at 5 and was composing by 7. He started playing publicly at 12 but by 16 he had a breakdown and disappeared into alcoholism. He sobered up and by 22 was the first music superstar. Paganini was capable of playing three octaves across four strings in a hand span, a feat that is nearly impossible even by today’s standards. He composed 24 Caprices at 23 and for years no other violinist was capable of playing much of his music. His playing of tender passages is said to have brought audiences to tears. One of his famous pieces was called Le Streghe which translates to Witches’ Dance. Audiences believed Paganini made a pact with the devil to perform supernatural displays of technique. Some patrons even claimed to see the devil helping him during his performances. It is because he was denied the Last Rites in the Church and his widely rumored association with the devil, that his body was denied a Catholic burial in Genoa. It took four years, and an appeal to the Pope, before the body was allowed to be transported to Genoa, but was still not buried. His remains were finally put to rest in 1876 in a cemetery in Parma.