European Memory

Although the Route is dedicated to a very important and famous personage of music, the journey the Route proposes should be placed in a crucial historical and patrimonial context for the history of Europe. It is, in fact, the period of transition from monarchical regimes to national identities, passing through the French Revolution, which marks a fundamental turning point. At the same time, this period is one that sees the emergence of a European consciousness that goes beyond national borders, even if at first this applies only to those personalities in culture, politics, art who have gained experience and contacts beyond the borders of the era. Remember that in Paganini’s time, Italy was divided into numerous states, so when Paganini moves from Genoa to Parma, Lucca, Palermo or Rome, it is as if he were moving abroad. The Route describes and recounts in a comprehensive manner, not only the aspects linked to the figure of the violinist and musician Paganini, but through the admirable work of the latter, a keen observer of the social and political situations he encountered in the various locations where he lived and performed and which he often recounted in his epistolary, he sowed the seeds of an awareness of a common European identity, a shared history and a heritage in which to recognise oneself. Paganini’s legacy, still alive today in the collective imagination, is the story of his exchanges and influence with other artists.

Today, all this is still visible in the historic centres of the cities of Paganini’s tour and in the others involved, in the theatres where he performed and which are still active producers of culture, in the museums that collect evidence of these stories of the period, but also in the places where he lived and slept that are the subject of urban tours that the route intends to promote and enhance. Indeed, they are places whose architecture and artistic expression tell the story of an entire era that is still visible today and in whose context it is easy to reconstruct atmospheres and deepen knowledge, also thanks to the use of new technologies.

A further element of analysis and proposal by the route concerns the instruments used by Paganini, in particular the violin and guitar, the history of which is another fundamental element that the route can help disseminate. In particular, as far as violins are concerned, the ancient art of violin making is a savoir-faire with ancient origins (the first workshop was established at the end of the 15th century in Brescia), the exaltation and golden age of which developed in Europe with some excellences, in addition to Brescia also in Cremona, home to probably the greatest violin makers in history, Parma, Füssen and Lyon. The products of these workshops are today a priceless heritage. The violin craftsmanship of Cremona became part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2012. In addition to the value of Paganini’s ‘Cannone’ (the name of his famous violin) created by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù and conserved in Palazzo Tursi, Genoa City Hall, in an exhibition space dedicated to Paganini, it should be borne in mind that there are only about 450 Stradivari violins left in the world and when they go to auction they fetch very high prices. This is intangible heritage because what is fundamental is the luthiers’ know-how, an art that still survives today and of which Paganini was, indirectly and through his performing skills, an ambassador and promoter.