24 Caprices for Solo Violin (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 (Op. 2 and 3) and 6 Guitar Quartets (Op. 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: Theodor Haumann; 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.


No. Key Movements Notes
1E majorAndanteNicknamed "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.
2B minorModeratoThe second caprice focuses on detache with many string crossings across non-adjacent strings.
3E minorSostenuto/Presto/SostenutoCaprice No. 3 is a slurred legato exercise with octave trills in the introduction and conclusion.
4C minorMaestosoCaprice No. 4 in is an exercise featuring passages with many multiple stops in thirds.
5A minorAgitatoCaprice No. 5 focuses on fast ricochet bowings. It begins and ends with a section of ascending arpeggios followed by descending scales.
6G minorLentoNicknamed "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.
7A minorPosatoThis caprice focuses on slurred staccato passages, featuring many long slurred scales and arpeggios.
8E-flat majorMaestosoCaprice No. 8 focuses on sustaining a lower note while playing a higher melody at the same time, meanwhile incorporating many trills and double stops.
9E majorAllegrettoNicknamed "La Chasse" or "The Hunt", the violin's A and E strings imitate the flutes ("Sulla tastiera imitando il Flauto"), while the G and 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.
10G minorVivaceThis caprice is primarily a study in up-bow staccato, with staccato notes punctuated by chords, trills and distant string crossings.
11C majorAndante/Presto/AndanteThe 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.
12A-flat majorAllegroThis 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.
13B-flat majorAllegroNicknamed "The Devil's Laughter", Caprice No. 13 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.
14E-flat majorModeratoThe 14th caprice displays the violin's ability to voice chords. It contains many triple and quadruple stops. Stylistically, the piece imitates brass fanfares.
15E minorPosatoCaprice 15 starts with a short passage of high parallel octaves, continuing on to ascending arpeggios, descending scales, and broken thirds.
16G minorPrestoMain article: Caprice No. 16 (Paganini)
17E-flat majorSostenuto/AndanteThe "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.
18C majorCorrente/AllegroThe 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.
19E-flat majorLento/Allegro assaiHere are many 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.
20D majorAllegrettoCaprice 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.
21A majorAmoroso/PrestoCaprice 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.
22F majorMarcatoCaprice 22 explores many types of double and triple stops with louré bowing, then implementing various elements of slurred staccato, slurred tremolos and strings crossings.
23E-flat majorPosato/Minore/PosatoCaprice 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 three 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.
24A minorTema: Quasi presto/variazioni I–XI/FinaleThe 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.


  • Critical edition by Franco Gulli (Ed. Curci, 1982)[2]
  • Critical edition by Renato de Barbieri (Urtext, 1990)[3]

Complete set recordings

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).[4] This was the world premiere recording of any version of the 24 Caprices.[5] 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).[6][7]

In 1947, Ruggiero Ricci[8] made the first complete recording of the 24 Caprices in their original version (Decca).[9] Ricci later made further recordings, as stated below:

  • 1947 | 2LPs | Decca LK.4025 Nos.1–12; LXT.2588 Nos.13–24 -mono-; 1950 reprint | 2LPs | London Decca LL.264 Nos.1–12; LL.252 Nos.13–24 mono (London, July 1947)
  • 1959 | LP | Decca LXT.5569 -mono- / SXL.2194 -stereo- (Victoria Hall, Geneva, 1–9 April 1959)
  • 1973 | LP | Vox Turnabout TV-S 34528 | + premiere recording of Caprice d'adieu in E major, MS 68 (USA, 1973)
  • 1978 | 2LP | Price-Less C–93042 (CD reprint: Price-Less D12179) | "Golden Jubilee" – recorded direct-to-disc[10] at Soundstage Recording Studio, Toronto, Canada | + Caprice d'adieu in E major, MS 68 + Duo merveille in C major, MS 6 (Toronto, 1978)
  • 1988 | CD | Radio Vaticana 061–003 / Biddulph LAW 016 | performed on Paganini's Guarneri del Gesù "Il Cannone" (Genova, 16–20 April 1988)
  • 1998 | CD | Dynamic CDS244 | 80th Birthday Concert, live in Szeged Synagogue, Hungary | 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 (Hungary, 17 May 1998)
  • 1982 | LaserDisc-NTSC | One Eleven, Ltd. URS-V-91610 | 69 mins. | BBC Scotland, Live television performance (p)1991
  • 1987 | VHS-NTSC | Shar Products Company RR–1 (Michigan University, 10 January 1987) | unedited performance

Other violinists have since recorded the complete set, including:


Violin and Piano

Violin and string orchestra

Viola solo

Viola and piano

Cello solo

  • arrangement of Nos. 9, 14, 17 by Yo-Yo Ma (1981/82)

Cello and piano

Flute solo

Guitar solo

Chamber orchestra

Clarinet and jazz band

Complete set recordings of arrangements

  • Berman, Pavel (Classica HD, 2013) – Orchestra dei Talenti Musicali – live, Biella, Teatro Sociale, 2013 (version with String Orchestra by Giedrius Kuprevičius)
  • Boyd, Bonita (flute) (Fleur De Son Classics, 2000) – arranged by Jules Herman 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
  • Slapin, Scott (viola) (Eroica Classical Recordings, 2008) – arranged for viola
  • Vardi, Emanuel (viola) ( Epic SC 6049, 1965) – arranged for viola. Recorded on a 17" Dodd viola in Vardi's home studio
  • Wihan String Quartet (Nimbus Alliance, 2009)[19] – arranged by William Zinn for string quartet (Wihan SQ: Leos Cepicky and Jan Schulmeister, violins / Jiri Zigmund, viola / Ales Kasprik, cello)

Original works, based on Paganini's Caprices

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

Violin solo

  • 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)[20]
  • 50 Caprice Variations (on Caprice No. 24) by George Rochberg (1970)

Violin and piano

  • 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

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

Piano solo

  • Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 3 (on Caprices Nos. 5, 9, 11, 13, 19, 16) by Robert Schumann (1832)[21]
  • 6 Concert Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 10 (on Caprices Nos. 14, 6, 10, 4, 2, 3) by Robert Schumann (1833)[22]
  • Études d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini, S. 140 (on Caprices Nos. 5+6, 17, 1, 9, 24) by Franz Liszt (1838/40)[23]
  • Grandes études de Paganini, S. 141 (on Caprices Nos. 6, 17, 1, 9, 24) by Franz Liszt (1851)[24]
  • Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35 (Book I & II)] (on Caprice No. 24) by Johannes Brahms (1862/63)[25]
  • Sonatina Canonica in E major (on Caprices Nos. 20, 19, 11, 14) by Luigi Dallapiccola (1942/43), dedicated to Pietro Scarpini

Two pianos

Piano and orchestra


  • 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)


  1. "Paganini: 24 Capricci per il Violino solo, "dedicati agli Artisti" Op. 1 – Robin Stowell". Archived from the original on 2015-10-02. Retrieved 2015-03-12.
  2. Paganini 24 Capricci, Rev. F.Gulli – Ed. Curci Milano (1982)
  3. Paganini 24 Caprices, Rev. R. De Barbieri – G. Henle Verlag (1990)
  4. 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)
  5. CD Symposium 1311, review by Jonathan Woolf on "Music Web International"
  6. Ossy Renardy on "the Remington site"
  7. Ossy Renardy on "Maestronet – forum", by Alan Sanders, 2003
  8. Ruggiero Ricci plays Paganini Caprice No. 24 on YouTube
  9. "LXT 2588 + LK 4025 – Paganini – 24 Caprices – Ruggiero Ricci". Archived from the original on 2015-04-16. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  10. This process records the original sound direct to master discs without using a magnetic tape. Thus the full dynamic range and the original sound are fully preserved.
  11. Foundation, iClassical. "Pavel Berman". iClassical Academy. Retrieved 2019-08-28.
  12. Yehudi Menuhin and George Enescu play Paganini Caprice No. 6 (arr. Enescu) on YouTube
  13. Zino Francescatti plays Paganini/Pilati "8 Caprices" on YouTube
  14. Zino Francescatti plays Paganini/Francescatti Caprice No. 17 on YouTube
  15. Caprice No. 13 with Orchestra, live recording by J. Heifetz on YouTube
  16. Caprice No. 24 with Orchestra, live recording by J. Heifetz on YouTube
  17. Sergey Krilov plays Edison Denisov "5 Paganini Caprices" on YouTube
  18. Benny Goodman – Paganini, Caprice 24 on YouTube, 78rpm Columbia CO 31390 (rec: 2 October 1941)
  19. 24 Caprices arranged for String Quartet
  20. Paganiniana, Variations for violin solo by Nathan Milstein
  21. Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 3 (Schumann, Robert): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
  22. 6 Concert Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 10 (Schumann, Robert): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
  23. Études d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini, S. 140 (Liszt, Franz): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
  24. Grandes études de Paganini, S. 141 (Liszt, Franz): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
  25. Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35 (Brahms, Johannes): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)

Further reading

  • 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
  • Konstantin Georgiyevich Mostras, 24 каприса для скрипки соло Н. Паганини: методические комментарии [=24 Caprices for solo violin solo by N. Paganini: methodical commentaries] Moscow, Musghiz, 1959 [165 p.]
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