The Grandes études de Paganini is a series of piano studies composed by Franz Liszt between 1838 and 1851. These pieces are the result of the Hungarian composer’s quest for virtuosity, no less than in his Études d’exécution transcendante. However, this time, Liszt draws inspiration from the violin works by Niccolò Paganini, and particularly to his 24 Caprices for solo Violin: he transposes the virtuoso elements for piano which enameled the Genoese composer’s music. The results are as difficult to play as they are beautiful to listen to, and Liszt’s Grandes études de Paganini have then gained a place of honor in the pantheon of the most difficult compositions in the piano repertoire.
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Taking inspiration from Paganini’s 24 Caprices, Liszt’s Grandes études de Paganini are considered the pinnacle of virtuosity in the piano repertoire. In fact, rumor has it that Paganini refused to play encore in his concerts, due to the difficulty of his music. This brought about an Italian proverb: “Paganini non ripete” (“Pagani does not repeat”)! The final version of Liszt’s Grandes études de Paganini, dated 1851 and dedicated to Clara Schumann, comprises six études, among which No. 3 is an exception. In fact, la Campanella is a piano transcription of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor. Becoming extremely famous, the third étude inspired a large number of composers, including Brahms, but also film soundtracks, such as L’Archet magique (1946) and Shine (1996). On medici.tv, you can find some of the best interpretations of Liszt’s Grandes études de Paganini. And contrary to what the proverb says, you can listen to Paganini again and again!