The circumstances surrounding Niccolò Paganini’s death did little to quench the rumours of his devilish dealings. The virtuoso had been plagued by stories of deals with the devil and his ill-health – attributed to everything from tuberculosis, intestinal disorders, cholera, necrotising osteitis in his jaw, syphilis and the negative effects of the mercury taken to treat the syphilis – had lent his features a death-like cast. The waspish critic Heinrich Heine even described him as a “corpse risen from...

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