Niccolò Paganini (nēkōlō´ pägänē´nē), 1782–1840, Italian violinist, whose virtuosity became a legend. He extended the compass of the violin by his use of harmonics, perfected the use of double and triple stops, and revived the practice of scordatura, the diverse tunings of the strings. Paganini made his debut as a child prodigy in 1793 at Genoa, his birthplace. In 1801 he retired to a villa in Tuscany and did not resume his concerts until 1805, when he became court violinist to the princess of Lucca. After he left (1813) her court, his success in Milan carried his fame throughout Europe. His retirement in 1835 was followed by the loss of his voice and, later, by death from cancer of the larynx. Paganini composed numerous pieces, most of them bravura variations for violin. Among the few compositions published during his lifetime are the 24 caprices for violin that were adapted for piano by both Schumann and Liszt.
See biographies by J. Pulver (1936, repr. 1970) and S. S. Stratton (1971).