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“The Paganini Project” Comes to the Coolidge Auditorium

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Photo by Richard Bram

The following is a guest post by Nicholas A. Brown, Music Specialist, Concert Office.

GRAMMY-nominated British violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved returns to the Library of Congress this December for a fascinating examination of the Music Division’s Niccolò Paganini collection, which includes posters, playbills, letters, manuscripts and memorabilia collected by the legendary violin virtuoso himself.

This collection of materials was purchased for the Library by Gertrude Clarke Whittall, one of the Music Division’s early patrons, who was also donor of the Library’s internationally-renowned Stradivari instruments and the namesake of the Whittall Pavilion.

On Saturday, December 15 at 2:00 p.m., Sheppard Skærved will present his Paganini research in a unique lecture/demonstration that includes live performance. The culmination of countless hours spent with the infamous “Secret Red Book” and other treasures, he will debunk myths and mysteries in telling the story of the real Paganini—a devoted single father, entrepreneur, musical genius and innovator who shaped the course of virtuoso performance.

The “Secret Red Book,” which will be on display at the Coolidge Auditorium on December 15, is Paganini’s most famous journal. It contains recipes, prescriptions, tour dates, a laundry list, financial calculations and clues about his use of a steel bow.

A special sneak preview of “The Paganini Project,” featuring Sheppard Skærved and the “Secret Red Book,” is available as a webcast at

Sheppard Skærved is the dedicatee of over two hundred works for solo violin, by composers such as George Rochberg, Judith Weir and Hans Werner Henze. One of the world’s foremost Paganini scholars, he is the only British violinist to have been invited to play Paganini’s violin “il Cannone” more than once (five times in total). He is currently the Viotti Lecturer in Performance Studies at the Royal Academy of Music inLondon.

In addition to the December 15 event, the Music Division’s Stradivari instruments will be the focus of a workshop, “Stradivari, for Starters,” led by Sheppard Skærved on Friday, December 14 at 2:00 p.m. in the Whittall Pavilion. This is a fantastic opportunity for staff, researchers, volunteers and students to receive an introduction to the collection by a practicing expert. The workshop is free and open to the public.

Event Listings

Stradivari, for Starters Workshop

Friday, December 14, 2:00 p.m. – Whittall Pavilion,JeffersonBuilding

Free, no tickets required.

The Paganini Project with Peter Sheppard Skærved, violin

Saturday, December 15, 2012, 2:00 p.m. – Coolidge Auditorium,JeffersonBuilding

Free, tickets required, available at or (202) 397-7328.

For more information, visit


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