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Paganini's left hand...

Technique and Practicing: from an old book, Great Masters of the Violin by Boris Schwarz

From al ku
Posted January 31, 2008 at 05:07 AM

page 198...Great Masters of the Violin by Boris Schwarz

"The build of his hand was peculiar, as we learn from his personal physician, Dr. Bennati, who published his findings in 1831:

Paganini's hand is not larger than normal; but because all its parts are so stretchable, it can double its reach. For example, without changing the position of the hand, he is able to bend the first joints of the left fingers --which touch the strings--sideways, at a right angle to the natural motion of the joint, and he can do it with effortless ease, assurance, and speed. Essentially, Paganini's art is based on physical endowment, increased and developed by ceaseless practicing."

the description of the "sideways" motion is quite interesting:) any thoughts?

From Sue Bechler
Posted on January 31, 2008 at 09:37 PM
Sounds like completely double-jointed at that joint. And probably at others. I knew a piano player who could bend his elbows and knees pretty much the wrong way. Makes me wonder now what he had for knee caps. Do I remember speculation as to whether Paganini had Marfan's syndrome, or was that some other violinist or pianist?? Sue
From enion pelta
Posted on February 1, 2008 at 07:13 AM
I have heard that he did have some sort of syndrome - can't remember the name but perhaps Marfan's is it - which made his joints excessively loose and also caused him to have a very long chin and other elongated features.
From Andreas Lantz
Posted on February 1, 2008 at 12:39 PM
"whether Paganini had Marfan's syndrome"

Both Paganini and Rachmaninov had it I believe.

Rach could reach a 13:th with any hand and in his prime he could squeeze a 14:th with his left hand

From al ku
Posted on February 1, 2008 at 12:42 PM
what is even more amazing to me is that some of you can play their compositions very very well, despite your "physical impairment". hehe.

still, paganini's last joint moving almost like a shoulder joint makes my head spin,,,

From Andres Sender
Posted on February 2, 2008 at 07:19 AM
Well, 'first joint' probably means the base joint, right? I suspect if you looked at Ruggiero Ricci's hand he would be capable of something which fit the description--we all do it to a degree.
From Andreas Lantz
Posted on February 2, 2008 at 01:30 PM
I believe Paganini could move his fingertips in way that not many people can

One person who could do similar stretches was the guitarist Shawn Lane

Allan Holdsworth is another guitarist that can stretch his forefinger in a similar way

From J Kingston
Posted on February 3, 2008 at 03:36 AM
Yes this syndrome affects the muscle tissue and makes the connective tissues very weak. Very often by middle age the retina and muscles in the eyes are detached and the patient goes blind. Also individuals have a very unique appearance with very long slender fingers. Tall and very thin. Think Klaus Kinski (sp???) in the original silent Daracula movies. I am not sure if he had it, but you get the idea. I knew a guy with this who could bend his thumb almost all the way behind his palm...on the outside! His father had it and went blind. The son was going blind. It can prgress at different speeds in different people. He was very weak. Evenutally the connective tissues around the heart are weakened as well. He told me patients often die rather young and often from heart problems. I am not a medical person but talked to this fellow about it at length.
I read somewhere Paganni's arrresting appearance makes it highly likely he had this syndrome. I am not sure how long he lived but the fingers are very rubbery and can bend and stretch in all types of ways we can't even get our brains around.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 3, 2008 at 05:40 AM
There are numerous drawings of Paganini's hands which are so flexible that the drawings might be caricatures. However, there is a cast which was made directly from his hand and is a more reliable indicator. It confirms the hyperelasticity of his hands and fingers. Physicians, looking back through time, believe that Paganini had Marfan's Syndrome, a genetic disorder which makes all connective tissues weak. Prolapsed mitral valves, sometimes described as "floppy valves," is a fairly common disorder today, but Paganini probably had a bad case of it. I have hyperelasticity of connective tissue around my joints. Unfortunately, I do not have Paganini's talent.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 3, 2008 at 10:49 PM
Greetings,
at least you have your teeth;)
Cheers,
Buri

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