Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840) is arguably the most celebrated violin virtuoso in the nineteenth century. He was a master of the violin and also a composition genius, producing an enormous and unprecedented output for the violin repertoire that forever changed the art of violin playing.
Many composers after Paganini took inspiration from the theme of his best-known composition, Caprice No. 24 in a minor from 24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Op. 1. Liszt was the first to do so, followed by many other prolific composers such as Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Lutosławski to name a few. Like Paganini, the composers mentioned above are also masters and virtuosos of their instrument.
I took Gary Wain’s Paganini Variations (1983–1994) as core inspiration in writing my composition, Étude de Paganini. I loosely followed the structure of Wain’s Paganini Variations, in that there are nine variations following the theme. The nine variations in Étude de Paganini are as follows:
THEME: Introduction – Tempo giusto
VARIATION I – A tempo
VARIATION II – Adagio cantabile con libertá
VARIATION III – Pesante e appassionato
VARIATION IV: Chorale – Grave cantabile e sostenuto
VARIATION V – Sempre ben ritmato
VARIATION VI – Rapido con forza
VARIATION VII – Prestissimo
VARIATION VIII: Moto perpetuo – Allegro con moto
VARIATION IX: Coda – Lento tranquillo e malinconico
In writing Étude de Paganini, I also wanted to pay homage to specific marimbists (who are also composers) who have made a great impact on the development of the modern marimba and its repertoire; in similar ways in which Paganini did for the violin. In doing so, I have written specific variations in the style of those individuals.
Étude de Paganini is commissioned by the Australian Percussion Academy, Melbourne for the Australian Marimba Competition 2015. With enormous gratitude, this work is dedicated to my first percussion teacher, Gary Wain.