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24 Caprices for Solo Violin (Paganini)

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Title: 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (Paganini)  
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Subject: Niccolò Paganini, Viola, Ferruccio Busoni, An die Jugend, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Étude, Caprice No. 24 (Paganini), Caprice, James Ehnes, Ruggiero Ricci
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24 Caprices for Solo Violin (Paganini)

The 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Op. 1, were written by Niccolò Paganini between 1802 and 1817 and published in 1819.[1] They are also designated as M.S. 25 in Maria Rosa Moretti and Anna Sorrento's Catalogo tematico delle musiche di Niccolò Paganini, which was published in 1982. The caprices are in the form of études, with each number studying individual skills (double stopped trills, extremely fast switching of positions and strings, etc.)

Edition Peters first published them in 1819; Ricordi later published another edition in 1821. When Paganini released his caprices, he dedicated them "to the Artists" rather than to a specific person.

Unlike many earlier and later sets of 24 pieces, there was no intention to write these caprices in 24 different keys.


No. 24
Kyoko Yonemoto playing

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  • Caprice No. 1 The Arpeggio in E major: Andante
  • Caprice No. 2 in B minor: Moderato
  • Caprice No. 3 in E minor: Sostenuto – Presto – Sostenuto
  • Caprice No. 4 in C minor: Maestoso
  • Caprice No. 5 in A minor: Agitato[2]
  • Caprice No. 6 "The Trill" in G minor: Lento
  • Caprice No. 7 in A minor: Posato
  • Caprice No. 8 in E-flat major: Maestoso
  • Caprice No. 9 "The Hunt" in E major: Allegretto
  • Caprice No. 10 in G minor: Vivace
  • Caprice No. 11 in C major: Andante – Presto – Andante
  • Caprice No. 12 in A-flat major: Allegro
  • Caprice No. 13 " Devil's Laughter" in B-flat major: Allegro
  • Caprice No. 14 in E-flat major: Moderato
  • Caprice No. 15 in E minor: Posato
  • Caprice No. 16 in G minor: Presto
  • Caprice No. 17 in E-flat major: Sostenuto – Andante[3]
  • Caprice No. 18 in C major: Corrente – Allegro
  • Caprice No. 19 in E-flat major: Lento – Allegro Assai
  • Caprice No. 20 in D major: Allegretto
  • Caprice No. 21 in A major: Amoroso – Presto
  • Caprice No. 22 in F major: Marcato
  • Caprice No. 23 in E-flat major: Posato
  • Caprice No. 24 in A minor: Tema con Variazioni (Quasi Presto)


No. Notes
1 Nicknamed "L'Arpeggio", this composition matches chordal playing with ricochet across all 4 strings. The piece opens in E Major and then quickly transitions into an E minor development section, where descending scales in thirds are introduced.
2 The second caprice in B minor focuses on detache with many string crossings across non-adjacent strings.
3 Caprice No. 3 is a slurred legato exercise with octave trills in the introduction and conclusion.
4 Caprice No. 4 is an exercise featuring passages with many multiple stops.
5 This caprice focuses on fast ricochet bowings. It begins and ends with a section of ascending arpeggios followed by descending scales.
6 Nicknamed "The Trill", the sixth caprice exploits the use of left-hand tremolo on the violin by quickly alternating between different notes in the chord in one of the voices. A melody is played in one line with a tremolo occurring on another.
7 This caprice focuses on slurred staccato passages, featuring many long slurred scales and arpeggios.
8 Caprice No. 8 focuses on sustaining a lower note while playing a higher melody at the same time, meanwhile incorporating many trills and double stops.
9 Nicknamed "La Chasse" or "The Hunt", the violin's A and E strings imitate the flutes ("Sulla tastiera imitando il Flauto"), while the G & D strings imitate the horns ("imitando il Corno sulla D e G corda"). Primarily a study in double stops, with ricochet occurring in the middle section.
10 This caprice is primarily a study in up-bow staccato, with staccato notes punctuated by chords, trills and distant string crossings.
11 The eleventh caprice starts and ends with sections that require multiple voices, containing a passage that consists of many dotted notes rapidly jumping up and down the scale.
12 This caprice consists of a slurred pattern of a melody on an upper string alternating with a drone note on a bottom string, forcing the violinist to stretch great distances while keeping a finger on the drone string.
13 Nicknamed "The Devil's Laughter", this solo violin piece starts out with scale like double-stopped passages at a moderate speed. The second part consists of high speed runs that exercise left hand flexibility and position shifting, and right hand high speed string changing and detache bowing. The piece then repeats back to the beginning and ends right before reaching the second part for the second time.
14 The 14th caprice displays the violin's ability to voice chords. It contains many triple and quadruple stops. Stylistically, the piece imitates brass fanfares.
15 Caprice 15 starts with a short passage of high parallel octaves, continuing on to ascending arpeggios, descending scales, and broken thirds.
16  Main article: Caprice No. 16 (Paganini)
17 The "A" section contains numerous thirty-second note runs on the A and E strings that converse back and forth with double stops on the lower two strings. The middle section is famous for the incredibly difficult octave passage.
18 The introduction to caprice 18 demonstrates playing on the G string in very high positions. This is followed by a rapid display of scales in thirds.
19 Here are a lot of octaves at the beginning; then there are string crossings between G and A strings; this is followed by quick changes of position on the G string.
20 Caprice 20 is famous for the use of the D string as a drone, backdropping a lyrical melody on the A and E strings, imitating a bagpipe. This is followed by a rapid sixteenth note passage with trills and flying staccato.
21 Caprice 21 begins with a very expressive, aria-like melody played in double-stopped sixths. This is followed by a section of rapid up-bow staccato.
22 Caprice 22 explores many types of double and triple stops with louré bowing, then implementing various elements of slurred staccato, slurred tremolos and strings crossings.
23 Caprice No. 23 begins with a melody in octaves in E-flat. The middle, contrasting section is a formidable exercise in string crossings: it requires the violinist to play patterns of 3 sixteenth notes on the G string and then cross quickly to play one on the E string, and then back to the G string, all at a quick tempo.
24 The theme from Caprice No. 24 is well known, and has been used as the basis for many pieces by a wide variety of composers. This caprice uses a wide range of advanced techniques such as tremendously fast scales and arpeggios, double and triple stops, left hand pizzicato, parallel octaves and tenths, rapid shifting, and string crossings.

Integral recordings

In 1940, to celebrate the centenary of Paganini's death, the complete set in the arrangement for violin and piano by Ferdinand David was recorded by the 20-year-old Austrian violinist Ossy Renardy, with Walter Robert on piano. This was the world premiere recording of any version of the 24 Caprices. Renardy had played the solo violin version of the 24 in his Carnegie Hall debut the previous October. In 1953, shortly before his untimely death, Renardy recorded the 24 again, in the same arrangement by David, with Eugene Hilmer accompanying.[4][5]

In 1947, the American virtuoso Ruggiero Ricci made the first complete recording of the 24 Caprices in their original version. Ricci later made three more recordings. Other violinists have since recorded the complete set.



  • Philippe Borer, The Twenty-Four Caprices of Niccolò Paganini. Their significance for the history of violin playing and the music of the Romantic era, Stiftung Zentralstelle der Studentenschaft der Universität Zürich, Zurich, 1997
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