Paganini Meets Rossini: “I Palpiti”

If the Top 40 popular song charts had existed in the early nineteenth century, they would have been dominated by the melodies of opera composers such as Gioachino Rossini. Today, popular music is distributed through recordings. In the nineteenth century, music distribution came in the form of arrangements and adaptations. Rock star virtuosos such as Niccolò Paganini and Franz Liszt drew on these melodies in the form of paraphrases.

Paganini’s Variations on I palpiti is a thrilling showpiece based on Rossini’s aria, Di tanti palpiti, from the 1813 opera, Tancredi. Based on a play by Voltaire, the melodramma eroico is set in eleventh century Syracuse. The knight, Tancredi, (a role sung by a contralto or mezzo-soprano) returns from exile to engage in a secret romance with Amenaide.

I palpiti is filled with violinistic effects such as left hand pizzicato and ghostly harmonics. An array of strange new voices emerge. Here is Fritz Kreisler’s version of the piece. It is performed by my former teacher, Oleh Krysa, a phenomenal Ukrainian-American violinist who was a student of David Oistrakh. Krysa was the winner of the 1963 Paganini Competition. On this live recording, he is accompanied by Tatiana Tchekina:

Here is the original aria, performed by Cecilia Bartoli:

Recordings

  • Paganini: Introduzione e variazioni su aria “Di tanti palpiti” dal “Tancredi” di Rossini, Oleh Krysa, Tatiana Tchekina Amazon
  • Rossini: Tancredi, Act 1, “O patria… Di tanti palpiti” Cecilia Bartoli, Giuseppe Patanè, Wiener Volksopernorchester Amazon

Featured Image: a period poster advertising one of Paganini’s concerts

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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