Paganini's Il Cannone Guarnerius

Il Cannone Guarnerius on exhibit at the Palazzo Doria-Tursi in Genoa, Italy

Paganini was in possession of a number of fine string instruments. More legendary than these were the circumstances under which he obtained (and lost) some of them. While Paganini was still a teenager in Livorno, a wealthy businessman named Livron lent him a violin, made by the master luthier Giuseppe Guarneri, for a concert. Livron was so impressed with Paganini's playing that he refused to take it back. This particular violin came to be known as Il Cannone Guarnerius. On a later occasion in Parma, he won another valuable violin (also by Guarneri) after a difficult sight-reading challenge from a man named Pasini.

Paganini brought his violin to luthier Jean Baptiste Vuillaume's workshop (the best in the world!) for improvement and tonal adjustments. Today, we are still not sure what Vuillaume altered on Paganini's instrument to improve its sound, but he probably put in a new bass bar and raised the neck angle. Throughout much of the 19th century, Vuillaume did lots of work for soloists like Paganini to create better sound from their instruments, even through the smallest adjustments. Vuillaume repaired the violin, and he also made a replica of it. The replica was so precise that Paganini himself could not identify which was the real one until he played them. Paganini's student, Camillo Sivori, played on the replica.

Salvatore Accardo playing "Il Cannone" 

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