The French Revolution is not primarily remembered for its musical legacy, but it makes sense that a period that gave us bold new ideas about constitutional rights and how to execute people would do the same for violin playing. British violinist Peter Sheppard-Skaerved will explain this and much more at a lecture-performance on two Revolution-era violinists who transformed the instrument. Giovanni Battista Viotti was a favorite of the Versailles court and an early champion of the Stradivarius. Although he managed to escape the fate of his patron, Marie Antoinette, by fleeing to England, he ended up back in France after banishment by the queen. Fellow Italian Nicolò Paganini was acclaimed as the best violinist of all time, mostly by himself. His greatest talent was self-promotion, and it paid off in more ways than one: Popular with the classical groupies, he contracted syphilis early in his career and mercury poisoning trying to cure it.

THE LECTURE BEGINS AT 2 p.m. AT THE JEFFERSON BUILDING OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, COOLIDGE AUDITORIUM, 1ST AND INDEPENDENCE ST. SE. FREE; NO TICKETS REQUIRED. (202) 707-5507.