Trio in D Major for Violin, Cello & Guitar
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.”
We know that the Trio in D Major for Violin, Cello and Guitar was composed in London during the summer of 1833 because Paganini wrote on the manuscript “Terzetto per Violino, Violoncello e Chitarra, composta in Londra da N. Paganini, li a Agosto, 1833.” In 1834, Paganini, along with the guitarist Luigi Legnani and a cellist whose name is no longer known took the work on tour to much success in Italy. Although there are several showy passages, there is nothing in the work which is in anyway beyond an experienced amateur player and the cantabile of beautiful vocal melody takes more than an equal part in the writing.