A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Sivori, Ernesto Camillo

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SIVORI, Ernesto Camillo, a great violinist, born at Genoa, June 6, 1817, the day after his mother had heard Paganini for the first time. He began the violin at five, under Restano, and continued it under Costa, until about the year 1823, when Paganini met with him, and was so much struck with his talent, as not only to give him lessons, but to compose six sonatas and a concertino for violin, guitar, tenor, and cello, which they were accustomed to play together, Paganini taking the guitar. This was sufficient to launch the lad into Paganini's style. In 1827 he first reached Paris and then [1]England; re- turning to Genoa, where he studied harmony seriously under Serra for several years without public demonstration. He next traversed Italy, beginning with Florence, in 1839; then in 1841 and 42 visited Prague, Vienna, Leipzig, Berlin, Frankfort, Brussels, St. Petersburg and Moscow. On Jan. 29, 1843, he made his rentré to Paris with a movement from a concerto of his own, his performance of which carried away his audience and procured him a special medal. He also made a vast impression in chamber-music. From Paris he went to London, and played his concerto at the Philharmonic, June 5, 1843, repeating it on the 19th (Spohr was in London at the same time); returned in 1844, when Mendelssohn, Joachim, Halle, Piatti, and Ernst were here also, and in 1845, when he assisted in the famous performances of Beethoven's quartets at Mr. Alsager's house [see Rousselot, ii. 182 b], played at the Musical Union on June 24, etc., etc. In 1846 he was again here; on June 27 introduced Mendelssohn's Concerto to England at the Philharmonic Concert, and was solo violin at Julien's 'Concerts d'Été.' He then left for America, in which he remained till 1850, travelling from the Northern States, by Mexico and Panama, to Valparaiso, Rio, Buenos Ayres, and Montevideo, and narrowly escaping death by yellow fever. In 1850 he returned to Genoa, and shortly after lost nearly all the money he had made in the new world by an imprudent speculation. In 1851 he was again in Great Britain, touring throughout the whole country. In 1862 he scored one more success in Paris in the B minor Concerto of Paganini. In 1864 he revisited London, and appeared at the Musical Union and elsewhere. Since then his life does not appear to have exhibited anything remarkable.

As a man he was always liked—'little, good-tempered, warm-hearted, intelligent, Camillo Sivori,' is the description of him of an English journalist. He was the only direct pupil of Paganini, and his playing was that of a virtuoso of the Paganini school, with a prodigious command of difficulties, especially of double-stopping, second only to his master. His tone was silvery and clear, but rather thin. His style—judged by a classical standard—was cold and affected, and had little real feeling. It is strange that the introduction of Mendelssohn's Concerto into this country should have fallen to an artist so little able to do justice to its merits. Sivori's works for the violin include 2 concertos, in E♭ and A; a fantaisie caprice in E; 3 sets of variations; 4 fantaisies on operas, etc., etc. They are rich in display, but poor as music, and were hardly ever played by any one but the composer.

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  1. Moscheles's Diary. i. 196.