24 Caprices for Solo Violin (Paganini)

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Niccolò Paganini

The 24 Caprices for Solo Violin were written in groups (six, six and twelve) by Niccolò Paganini between 1802 and 1817. They are also designated as M.S. 25 in Maria Rosa Moretti's and Anna Sorrento's Catalogo tematico delle musiche di Niccolò Paganini which was published in 1982. The Caprices are in the form of études, with each number exploring different skills (double stopped trills, extremely fast switching of positions and strings, etc.)

Ricordi first published them in 1820, where they were grouped and numbered from 1 to 24 as Op. 1, together with 12 Sonatas for Violin and Guitar (Opp. 2 and 3) and 6 Guitar Quartets (Opp. 4 and 5). When Paganini released his Caprices, he dedicated them "alli artisti" (to the artists) rather than to a specific person. A sort of dedication can be recognized in Paganini's own score, where he annotated between 1832 and 1840 the following 'dedicatee' for each Caprice (possibly ready for a new printed edition): 1: Henri Vieuxtemps; 2: Giuseppe Austri; 3: Ernesto Camillo Sivori; 4: Ole Bornemann Bull; 5: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst; 6: Karol Józef Lipiński; 7: Franz Liszt; 8: Delphin Alard; 9: Herrmann; 10: Théodor Haumann (sv); 11: Sigismond Thalberg; 12: Dhuler; 13: Charles Philippe Lafont; 14: Jacques Pierre Rode; 15: Louis Spohr; 16: Rodolphe Kreutzer; 17: Alexandre Artôt; 18: Antoine Bohrer; 19: Andreas Jakob Romberg; 20: Carlo Gignami; 21: Antonio Bazzini; 22: Luigi Alliani; 23: [no name]; 24: Nicolò Paganini, sepolto pur troppo (to my self, regrettably buried).

Ferdinand David's first edition was published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1854. David, as editor, also issued an edition of Caprices with piano accompaniments by Robert Schumann. Another edition by David was issued in two books of 12 caprices each "mit hinzugefügter Begleitung des Pianoforte von Ferdinand David" (with additional piano accompaniment by Ferdinand David) and published by Breitkopf & Härtel (c. 1860).[1]

Unlike many earlier and later sets of 24 pieces, there was no intention to write these caprices in 24 different keys.


  • Caprice No. 1 in E major "Arpeggios" (Andante)
  • Caprice No. 2 in B minor (Moderato)
  • Caprice No. 3 in E minor "Octaves" (Sostenuto – Presto – Sostenuto)
  • Caprice No. 4 in C minor "Thirds" (Maestoso)
  • Caprice No. 5 in A minor (Agitato)
  • Caprice No. 6 in G minor "The Trill / Tremolo" (Lento)
  • Caprice No. 7 in A minor (Posato)
  • Caprice No. 8 in E major (Maestoso)
  • Caprice No. 9 in E major "The Hunt / La chasse" (Allegretto)
  • Caprice No. 10 in G minor (Vivace)
  • Caprice No. 11 in C major (Andante – Presto – Andante)
  • Caprice No. 12 in A major (Allegro)
  • Caprice No. 13 in B major "The Devil's Laughter" (Allegro)
  • Caprice No. 14 in E major (Moderato)
  • Caprice No. 15 in E minor (Posato)
  • Caprice No. 16 in G minor (Presto)
  • Caprice No. 17 in E major (Sostenuto – Andante)
  • Caprice No. 18 in C major (Corrente – Allegro)
  • Caprice No. 19 in E major (Lento – Allegro assai)
  • Caprice No. 20 in D major (Allegretto)
  • Caprice No. 21 in A major (Amoroso – Presto)
  • Caprice No. 22 in F major (Marcato)
  • Caprice No. 23 in E major (Posato – Minore – Posato)
  • Caprice No. 24 in A minor (Tema. Quasi presto – Variazioni I–XI – Finale)


No. Notes
1 Nicknamed "The Arpeggio", this composition matches chordal playing with ricochet across all 4 strings. The piece opens in E major and then quickly transitions into an E minor development section, where descending scales in thirds are introduced.
2 The second caprice in B minor focuses on detache with many string crossings across non-adjacent strings.
3 Caprice No. 3 is a slurred legato exercise with octave trills in the introduction and conclusion.
4 Caprice No. 4 is an exercise featuring passages with many multiple stops.
5 This caprice focuses on fast ricochet bowings. It begins and ends with a section of ascending arpeggios followed by descending scales.
6 Nicknamed "The Trill", the sixth caprice exploits the use of left-hand tremolo on the violin by quickly alternating between different notes in the chord in one of the voices. A melody is played in one line with a tremolo occurring on another.
7 This caprice focuses on slurred staccato passages, featuring many long slurred scales and arpeggios.
8 Caprice No. 8 focuses on sustaining a lower note while playing a higher melody at the same time, meanwhile incorporating many trills and double stops.
9 Nicknamed "La Chasse" or "The Hunt", the violin's A and E strings imitate the flutes ("Sulla tastiera imitando il Flauto"), while the G & D strings imitate the horns ("imitando il Corno sulla D e G corda"). Primarily a study in double stops, with ricochet occurring in the middle section.
10 This caprice is primarily a study in up-bow staccato, with staccato notes punctuated by chords, trills and distant string crossings.
11 The eleventh caprice starts and ends with sections that require multiple voices, containing a passage that consists of many dotted notes rapidly jumping up and down the scale.
12 This caprice consists of a slurred pattern of a melody on an upper string alternating with a drone note on a bottom string, forcing the violinist to stretch great distances while keeping a finger on the drone string.
13 Nicknamed "The Devil's Laughter", this solo violin piece starts out with scale like double-stopped passages at a moderate speed. The second part consists of high speed runs that exercise left hand flexibility and position shifting, and right hand high speed string changing and detache bowing. The piece then repeats back to the beginning and ends right before reaching the second part for the second time.
14 The 14th caprice displays the violin's ability to voice chords. It contains many triple and quadruple stops. Stylistically, the piece imitates brass fanfares.
15 Caprice 15 starts with a short passage of high parallel octaves, continuing on to ascending arpeggios, descending scales, and broken thirds.
16  Main article: Caprice No. 16 (Paganini)
17 The "A" section contains numerous thirty-second note runs on the A and E strings that converse back and forth with double stops on the lower two strings. The middle section is famous for the incredibly difficult octave passage.
18 The introduction to caprice 18 demonstrates playing on the G string in very high positions. This is followed by a rapid display of scales in thirds.
19 Here are a lot of octaves at the beginning; then there are string crossings between G and A strings; this is followed by quick changes of position on the G string.
20 Caprice 20 is famous for the use of the D string as a drone, backdropping a lyrical melody on the A and E strings, imitating a bagpipe. This is followed by a rapid sixteenth note passage with trills and flying staccato.
21 Caprice 21 begins with a very expressive, aria-like melody played in double-stopped sixths. This is followed by a section of rapid up-bow staccato.
22 Caprice 22 explores many types of double and triple stops with louré bowing, then implementing various elements of slurred staccato, slurred tremolos and strings crossings.
23 Caprice No. 23 begins with a melody in octaves in E. The middle, contrasting section is a formidable exercise in string crossings: it requires the violinist to play patterns of 3 sixteenth notes on the G string and then cross quickly to play one on the E string, and then back to the G string, all at a quick tempo.
24 The theme from Caprice No. 24 is well known, and has been used as the basis for many pieces by a wide variety of composers. This caprice uses a wide range of advanced techniques such as tremendously fast scales and arpeggios, double and triple stops, left hand pizzicato, parallel octaves and tenths, rapid shifting, and string crossings.



Violin and piano[edit]

Violin and orchestra[edit]

  • orchestral accompaniments for Nos. 1–23 by Laszlo Meszlény, based on the piano accompaniments by Robert Schumann
  • orchestral accompaniment for No. 24 by Chris Nicholls, based on the original guitar accompaniment by Paganini

Violin and string orchestra[edit]

  • arrangement of Nos. 13,[7] 24 by Jascha Heifetz,[8] No. 24 is based on L. Auer piano arrangement (1940s)
  • arrangement of Nos. 2, 21, 20, 9, 24 as Five Paganini Caprices by Edison Denisov (1985)[9]

Violin with a second violin[edit]

  • edition of Nos. 1–24 incorporating accompaniments for a second violin by Alberto Bachmann (1921)

Cello solo[edit]

Viola solo[edit]

Viola and piano[edit]

Flute solo[edit]

Saxophone solo[edit]

  • arrangement for alto saxophone (Nos. 1, 5–11, 13, 16, 20, 21, 23–24) and soprano saxophone (Nos. 2–4, 12, 14, 15, 17–19, 22) by Raaf Hekkema (2004/05)

Bassoon solo[edit]

  • arrangement for bassoon solo (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 23 & 24) by Kristian Oma Rønnes, published by Emerson Edition Ltd (2016)

Guitar solo[edit]

String quartet[edit]

Clarinet and jazz band[edit]

Chamber orchestra[edit]

Original works, based on Paganini's Caprices[edit]

Especially for compositions in the form of "Variations" see the related article: Caprice No. 24 (Paganini)#Variations on the theme.

Violin solo[edit]

  • 9 variaciones sobre el capricho núm. 24 de Paganini by Manuel Quiroga (1928)
  • 12 variaciones sobre el capricho núm. 24 de Paganini by Manuel Quiroga (1942)
  • Paganiniana, Variations for violin solo (Tema: Caprice 24; Var. I: Caprice 3; Var. II: Le Streghe; Var. III: Caprice 6; Var. IV: Caprice 14; Var. V: Caprice 21) by Nathan Milstein (1954)[12]
  • 50 Caprice Variations (on Caprice No. 24) by George Rochberg (1970)

Violin and piano[edit]

  • Paganini Variations on the 24th caprice by Eugène Ysaÿe (posthumous ed. 1960)
  • Trois caprices de Paganini Op. 40 (re-composition of Nos. 20, 21 and 24) by Karol Szymanowski (1918; rev.1926)
  • Trois caprices de Paganini Op. 97 (re-composition of Nos. 10, 13 and 22) by Darius Milhaud (1927)

Violin and orchestra[edit]

  • Capriccio dei Capricci (da Paganini, 2 Studi per orchestra di virtuosi), Op. 50, by Franco Mannino (1967)

Piano solo[edit]

  • Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 3 (on Caprices Nos. 5, 9, 11, 13, 19, 16) by Robert Schumann (1832)[13]
  • 6 Concert Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 10 (on Caprices Nos. 14, 6, 10, 4, 2, 3) by Robert Schumann (1833)[14]
  • Études d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini, S. 140 (on Caprices Nos. 5+6, 17, 1, 9, 24) by Franz Liszt (1838/40)[15]
  • Grandes études de Paganini, S. 141 (on Caprices Nos. 6, 17, 1, 9, 24) by Franz Liszt (1851)[16]
  • Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35 (Book I & II)] (on Caprice No. 24) by Johannes Brahms (1862/63)[17]
  • Sonatina Canonica in E major (on Caprices Nos. 20, 19, 11, 14) by Luigi Dallapiccola (1942/43)

Two pianos[edit]

Piano and orchestra[edit]


  • re-composition of various Paganini's works as Paganiniana, Op. 65: I. Allegro agitato (on Caprices Nos. 5, 12 and fragments from Nos. 16, 19) by Alfredo Casella (1942)
  • Paganini Variations, Op. 26 (on Caprice No. 24) by Boris Blacher (1947)

Complete set recordings[edit]

In 1940, to celebrate the centenary of Paganini's death, the complete set in the arrangement for violin and piano by Ferdinand David was recorded by the 20-year-old Austrian violinist Ossy Renardy (pseudonym of Oskar Reiss), with Walter Robert on piano (78 rpm's, RCA Victor; CD reprint by Biddulph).[18] This was the world premiere recording of any version of the 24 Caprices.[19] Renardy had played the solo violin version of the 24 in his Carnegie Hall debut the previous October. In 1953, shortly before his untimely death, Renardy recorded the 24 again (on Paganini's Guarnieri del Gesù violin, 'Il Cannone'), in the same arrangement by David, with Eugene Helmer accompanying (2LPs, Remington R-99-146 & R-99-152).[20][21]

In 1947, Ruggiero Ricci[22] made the first complete recording of the 24 Caprices in their original version (Decca).[23] Ricci later made further recordings, as stated below:

  • 2LPs: Decca LK.4025 [Nos. 1–12]; LXT.2588 [Nos. 13–24] mono (London, July 1947) / 2LPs: London/Decca LL.264 [Nos. 1–12]; LL.252 [Nos. 13–24] mono (reprint 1950)
  • LP: Decca LXT.5569 mono; SXL.2194 stereo (Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzeland, 1–9 April 1959)
  • LP: Vox (1975) + Caprice d'adieu in E major, MS 68
  • LP: Price-Less (rec: direct-to-disc at Soundstage Recording Studio, Toronto Canada, 1978) + Caprice d'adieu in E major, MS 68 + Duo merveille in C major, MS 6
  • VHS-NTSC: Shar Products Company (10 January 1987) (unedited performance)
  • LD-NTSC: One Eleven, Ltd. ('live', 1980s) (television performance)
  • CD: Radio Vaticana / Biddulph (16–20 April 1988) (performed on Paganini's Guarnieri del Gesù violin, 'Il Cannone')
  • CD: Dynamic ('live', 17 May 1998) (80th Birthday Concert – version for violin and orchestra by Laszlo Meszlény (Nos. 1–23) and Chris Nicholls (No. 24), based on the piano accompaniment composed by Robert Schumann)

Other violinists have since recorded the complete set, including:

Complete set recordings of arrangements[edit]

  • Boyd, Bonita (flute) (Fleur De Son Classics, 2000) – arranged by Jules Herman for flute
  • Cawdrey, Julian (flute) (Pavane Records, 1997) – arranged by Julian Cawdrey for flute
  • Drahos, Béla (flute) (Hungarian issue – Radioton, 1996) – arranged by Jules Herman for flute. Première recording of the 24 Caprices performed on the flute
  • Fisk, Eliot (guitar) (Nimbus Records, 1991) – arranged by Eliot Fisk for guitar
  • Gallois, Patrick (flute) (DGG, 1991) – arranged by Patrick Gallois for flute
  • Hekkema, Raaf (saxophone) (MDG, 2005) – arranged by Raaf Hekkema for alto saxophone (Nos. 1, 5 – 11, 13, 16, 20, 21, 23 & 24) & soprano saxophone (Nos. 2 – 4, 12, 14, 15, 17 – 19 & 22)
  • Kato, Motoaki (flute) (Japanese issue – Livenotes, 1997) – arranged for flute
  • Mérei, Tamás (cello) (Hungaroton Classic, 1999) – arranged by Tamás Mérei for cello
  • Seres, Dora (flute) (CD Hungaroton) – arranged for flute
  • Slapin, Scott (viola) (Eroica Classical Recordings, 2008) – arranged for viola
  • Vardi, Emanuel (viola) (EPIC, 1965) – arranged for viola. Recorded on a 17-inch 'Dodd' viola in Vardi's home recording studio
  • Wihan String Quartet (Nimbus Alliance, 2009)[24]arranged by William Zinn for string quartet (Wihan SQ: Leos Cepicky and Jan Schulmeister, violins / Jiri Zigmund, viola / Ales Kasprik, cello)


  1. ^ Paganini: 24 Capricci per il Violino solo, "dedicati agli Artisti" Op. 1 – Robin Stowell
  2. ^ Paganini 24 Capricci, Rev. F.Gulli – Ed. Curci Milano (1982)
  3. ^ Paganini 24 Caprices, Rev. R. De Barbieri – G. Henle Verlag (1990)
  4. ^ Yehudi Menuhin and George Enescu play Paganini Caprice No. 6 (arr. Enescu) on YouTube
  5. ^ Zino Francescatti plays Paganini/Pilati "8 Caprices" on YouTube
  6. ^ Zino Francescatti plays Paganini/Francescatti Caprice No. 17 on YouTube
  7. ^ Caprice No. 13 with Orchestra, live recording by J. Heifetz on YouTube
  8. ^ Caprice No. 24 with Orchestra, live recording by J. Heifetz on YouTube
  9. ^ Sergey Krilov plays Edison Denisov "5 Paganini Caprices" on YouTube
  10. ^ Primrose Paganini for viola 24. Caprice
  11. ^ Benny Goodman – Paganini, Caprice 24 on YouTube, 78rpm Columbia CO 31390 (rec: 2 October 1941)
  12. ^ Paganiniana, Variations for violin solo by Nathan Milstein
  13. ^ Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 3 (Schumann, Robert): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  14. ^ 6 Concert Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 10 (Schumann, Robert): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  15. ^ Études d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini, S. 140 (Liszt, Franz): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  16. ^ Grandes études de Paganini, S. 141 (Liszt, Franz): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  17. ^ Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35 (Brahms, Johannes): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  18. ^ 78rpm's RCA Victor: matrix 16276/8 (Album M-672) Paganini Caprices Nos. 1 to 12 (6 sides) + matrix 17636/8 (Album M-738) Paganini Caprices Nos. 13 to 24 (5 sides)
  19. ^ CD Symposium 1311, review by Jonathan Woolf on "Music Web International"
  20. ^ Ossy Renardy on "the Remington site"
  21. ^ Ossy Renardy on "Maestronet – forum", by Alan Sanders, 2003
  22. ^ Ruggiero Ricci plays Paganini Caprice No. 24 on YouTube
  23. ^ LXT 2588 + LK 4025 – Paganini – 24 Caprices – Ruggiero Ricci
  24. ^ 24 Caprices arranged for String Quartet


  • Stratton, Stephen (1907). Nicolo Paganini: his life and work. London: E. Shore & Co. ISBN 0-559-80636-1. 
  • Philippe Borer, The Twenty-Four Caprices of Niccolò Paganini. Their significance for the history of violin playing and the music of the Romantic era, Stiftung Zentralstelle der Studentenschaft der Universität Zürich, Zurich, 1997

External links[edit]