Paganini Tabloid Fodder

No doubt Paganini’s astronomical fame spread like wildfire across Europe, fueled by outrageous suppositions and the eccentric and bizarre character that Paganini embodied.  It’s the “fodder” that really drew the crowds, and the serious music critics, musicians, and composers followed in curiosity, and then fascination.  He inspired all to explore the limits of their instruments and art.

The Merriam-Webster definition of fodder is:

  1. something fed to domestic animals; especially  :  coarse food for cattle, horses, or sheep

  2. inferior or readily available material used to supply a heavy demand fodder for tabloids

The fodder that Paganini supplied was not his incredible ability, but rather the rumors of his life, selling his soul, time in prison, and his unique appearance.  It was different from anything anyone had ever seen, or experienced.

I loved the recent, brief podcast from American Public Media (NPR), Composers Datebook, from March 9, 2017, entitled “Paganini Tabloid?”

Here is a transcription of the podcast:

“If Entertainment Tonight was around in Paris in 1831 they probably would have offered a breathless special edition report on a concert that occurred on today’s date that year, perhaps sounding something like this:

Everybody who was anybody was there, from the literary world, the French novelist, Victor Hugo, author of Les Mìs, don’t you know.  And the writer, Alfred du Musset, who they say was living in sin with that cross-dressing baroness, who, despite her sex, went by the name of George Sand.  Oh, and the German Poet, Heinrich Heine, was there.  And from the music world, three of the leading opera composers of the day: the foreign-born Giacomo Meyerbeer, and Luigi Cherubini, and popular native-son, Jacques Halévy.  And who could miss the dashing lion-maned Hungarian pianist, Franz Liszt, also seated in the theatre.  They were all there to witness the Parisian debut of the most charismatic performer of his time–the Italian violinist, Niccolò Paganini.  It was whispered that the fourth string on his violin was made from the intestine of his mistress, murdered at his own hand, and that he had spent twenty years in prison for the crime with his violin his sole companion.  Others hinted he had actually made a pact with Satan, trading his immortal soul for superhuman virtuosity.  He looked like death warmed over, thin and gaunt, but played like a man possessed.  Beat that Ozzy Osbourne!”



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