There are some names, the mere mention or thought of which conjure up distinct personalities; such are Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner; but not one has the extraordinary individuality of that of Paganini. Though few can be living who ever saw the man, though his portraits are not now commonly to be met with, the name of Paganini at once calls up a picture-weird, uncanny, demoniacal; brings back the faint echo of performances long lost in the corridors of time; and excites the imagination in a manner altogether unique. The last few years have witnessed the appearance of an unprecedented number of wonderful young violinists, whose achievements culminate in the marvellous playing of the boy Franz von Vecsey. These manifestations are almost enough to induce belief in the theory or doctrine of reincarnation, and to make one fancy that the great Genoese is once again in the flesh. These violinists, too, are all playing Paganini's music; they seem to glory in it, and so do the audiences, although to many serious and worthy folk it is mere clap-trap stuff. This revived interest in Paganini and his music seems to render the present an appropriate time to restate the case of the man and the artist, notwithstanding the extensive literature already associated with his name.
It is a curious fact that nearly every distinguished musician, composer or executant, has his namesakes. There was a constant succession of Bachs in Thuringia for nearly two centuries; Beethoven's father and grand-father were musicians; there were four Mozarts, musicians; and more than twenty Wagners of some standing in the musical world. No one seems to have traced the pedigree of Paganini, but he was preceded and followed by others bearing the same name, and such particulars as can be gleaned concerning these Paganinis may not be without interest, and at least may serve by way of introduction to the greatest of them all.