Devil’s Duel takes its inspiration from the story of the infamous Niccolo Paganini whose virtuosity was astounding. He began playing the violin at age seven, and by the age of 13 had the reputation of being the leading Italian violinist of his time. People began to speculate about Paganini’s great talent, and began to wonder about his gift. He became known as a “Hexensohn” or witch’s brat.
Paganini’s demonic reputation became so widespread that his talent was often attributed to the belief that he had help from the devil. Later in life, Paganini would tour Europe, though rumours of supernatural guidance never ceased. He would give concerts, and often “duel” with other virtuosi – “winning” by improvising during the contest (or concert!) by adding octaves, thirds, and sixths, and often playing more notes in a second than thought humanly possible.
Devils Duel uses the famous music of Paganini’s Caprice no.24 as its musical material, and sees the euphonium soloist duelling with various instruments in the band with displays of virtuosity in the fast music, and cunning in the slow.
Devil’s Duel was commissioned by David Thornton, to whom this is dedicated. The premiere was given by David Thornton, Nicholas Childs, and the Black Dyke Band at Leeds Town Hall, 26 May 2006.