Il Cannone Guarnerius
Il Cannone is also known by the variants Il Cannone del Gesù, Cannone or Canon, often appended with Guarneri del Gesù, the Guarneri trademark. The violin received its name from a former owner, the Italian violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840), because of its power and resonance. So associated is Paganini with Il Cannone, it is very common for the violin to be referenced as Il Cannone, ex-Paganini.
Paganini lost a valuable Amati violin as a result of his penchant for voracious gambling. He was given a neglected Guarneri violin, a gift from an amateur violinist and businessman. Paganini played on this instrument for the rest of his life, fondly calling it “my cannon violin,” referring to the explosive sound that he was able to make it produce. He bequeathed it to the city of Genoa, Italy upon his death, and it is now considered a national treasure.
When in need of repair, Il Cannone would be sent to the workshop of Jean Baptiste Vuillaume (1798–1875) in Paris, the greatest luthier of his day. Not only did Vuillaume repair the Guarnerius, but he also made an exact replica. The copy was so precise in every detail of construction and appearance, that not even Paganini could distinguish one from the other. It was not until Paganini noticed subtle differences in tone that he could identify the original. Paganini presented the copy to his student, Camillo Sivori.
Il Cannone and the Vuillaume replica are exhibited together in the main room of the Genoa town hall. The violin is maintained in playable condition, and is taken out and played monthly by its curator. The Cannone was played each year by the winner of the Premio Paganini contest for young violinists, which sees the Italian city attracting the cream of the crop of young violin performers (since 2002 the contest has been held every two years). On occasion, Il Cannone is loaned to musicians for performance. Violinist Shlomo Mintz performed a special Il Cannone concert on Paganini’s violin with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra of the Netherlands, in 1997. In 1999, Eugene Fodor played Il Cannone at a special concert in San Francisco, California. It was the farthest the violin had ever been from Italy. Conditions of its travel included a multimillion-dollar insurance policy and an armed escort of Italian police officers. This violin has been played several times (including in New York City) by jazz violinist Regina Carter. Carter recorded an entire album with it, Paganini: After a Dream. In February 2006, Il Cannone was taken to London's Royal Academy of Music, where it was displayed and played at a festival devoted to Paganini.
- "Niccolò Paganini's violin: The Cannone of Joseph Guarnerius del Gesù". Alberto Giordano & Co. 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- "Il Cannone" (PDF) (in German, English, and Italian). Comune di Genova. Retrieved 2007-04-15.