In 1829 Niccolo Paganini wowed Warsaw, playing ten concerts in ten days. The most receptive ears in the audience? They belonged to a nineteen-year-old Fryderyk Chopin.
The "Paganini Phenomenon"... As the gossip ran, the violin virtuoso had made a pact with the devil to be able to play like he did. All of Europe was mesmerized.
The sounds of Paganini's puckish prowess are familiar to us. When Chopin heard them, he heard a man bent on reinventing the violin. The young Chopin was poised to do the same with the piano, and the virtuoso’s boundary-bending playing captivated him in the way only a kindred genius’ could.
Unlike Paganini, Chopin shied away from the showy. His “Souvenir de Paganini” —composed on the heels of the violinist’s performances in Warsaw—is a set of variations on the “Carnival of Venice” tune he heard Paganini play, yet it never erupts into the pyrotechnic display you might predict. To be the fuse and not the firework was what ultimately set Chopin apart from other virtuosos of the day.
In his words, "Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art." - Jennifer Foster