Terzetto in D Major for for Viola, Cello & Guitar
Hector Berlioz is said to have written, "To write well for the guitar is almost impossible unless one plays it himself." Not only could Paganini play the guitar, he was said to be an extraordinarily fine player of that instrument. Niccolo Paganini (1762-1840) was, if the not greatest, certainly the most famous of violin virtuosi. He and his music for violin are well known to violinists and non violinists alike. However, the violin was not Paganini’s first instrument. It was the mandolin which was introduced to him by his father. Paganini retained a fondness for plucked instruments all of his life, later taking up the guitar and writing a great deal of music for it, including perhaps as many as 20 quartets for violin, viola, cello and guitar, the same number of sonatas for violin and guitar, and some 50 works for guitar solo. Paganini’s principal violin teacher, Alessandro Rollo, used to accompany the boy on the guitar during lessons and Paganini never forgot the beauty of the two instruments combined. Paganini's attraction to the sound of instruments plucked can often be heard in the dazzling pizzicato passages in his works for violin. Paganini became so fond of the guitar that he became a first class performer on that instrument and often wrote many of his works first on the guitar before transcribing them to the violin in which version they became better known. Paganini himself wrote, “I make use of the guitar now and then to stimulate my fantasy for composition and to bring forth some harmony, which I cannot do on the violin.”
The Terzetto Concertante in D Major was comp9sed in 1833 at the same time he completed a similar work, his Trio for Violin, Cello and Guitar (also published by Edition Silvertrust). It was first performed in London. Paganini wished to take the viola part but there was no guitarist available. Mendelssohn who happened to be in the audience was called to the stage and sight read the part on the piano. The word Concertante in the title of the work makes it clear that each voice will be given substantial solos. The guitar's sonority moreover creates a unique blend with the elegant viola part as well as the cello often asked to play in its treble register.