Niccolò Paganini is widely considered one of the finest violin virtuoso’s in history and his skill with the Devil’s Instrument was such that it was rumoured his talent was the direct result of a deal with Satan himself. Gossip Paganini didn’t exactly assuage when he’d walk on stage and shred with such ferocity other, lesser violinists simply, gave up.
As an idea of how good Paganini was many of the things he did with a violin had never been done before and even today masters of the instrument consider some of the stuff Paganini could do to be literally physically impossible. For example Paganini could reportedly play “three octaves across four strings” without moving his hand at all. For anyone unfamiliar with the specifics of playing a violin, one would need a handspan of about 15 inches across to do this comfortably.
Well that or Marfan Syndrome.
To explain, Marfan Syndrome is a genetic condition that largely impacts a sufferer’s connective tissue and musculature. Which admittedly sounds bad, right? Which is partially true, with their being a host of potential issues a sufferer can face. However, a side-effect of the condition is that sufferers tend to have abnormally long limbs and generally display almost superhuman levels of hypermobility, or double-jointedness.
In the case of Paganini, he was reported to be able to effortless contort his fingers at painful, jutting angles that would be uncomfortable, it not downright impossible for another violinist, granting him a supreme, virtually peerless control of the instrument.
Something Paganini used to his advantage, composing pieces for the instrument widely regarded as some of the most technically difficult pieces ever written and absolutely fucking styling just all over other musicians. In some cases so hard they simply gave up playing.
For example, Paganini is known to have owned a violin made by level 80 violin-smith (or luthier to use the proper term) Giuseppe Guarneri. A violin Paganini didn’t pay for mind you, but was sent to him by a fan who simply wanted to see what someone of Paganini’s prodigious skill could do with an instrument of such high quality. According to legend after seeing Paganini play, the wealthy patron absolutely refused to take it back, proclaiming they were no longer worthy to even touch it.
Likewise other musicians are said to have destroyed their instruments after hearing Paganini play. Being so demoralised by his talent that they couldn’t bring themselves to even try anymore.
Stories like these though eventually led to rumours that the source of the virtuoso’s talents were supernatural in nature. An image that wasn’t exactly helped by Paganini’s unusually gaunt appearance (another sign people point to as proof he suffered from Marfan syndrome) and incredibly flamboyant playing style that saw him wildly flying about the stage like some great solo-ripping bat.
Specifically it was alledged that Paganini was somehow stealing the violin-playing talent of other musicians, with critics pointing to the fact he was capable of feats his peers deemed impossible as proof something was amiss. Ignoring the far more obvious and reasonable answer that Paganini was simply that fucking good.
To his credit, Paganini is said to have found these rumours amusing and even played into them. Occasionally rocking up to his concerts dressed entirely in black in a jet black carriage pulled by giant fuck off black horses. Like a badass.
This did eventually end up biting Paganini in the arse though. Or at least his corpse’s arse because these long-standing rumours prevented the violinist from being buried in a catholic cemetery for almost half a decade. Which we can only hope Paganini found funny.