Paganini was the star of his time. That is the early nineteenth century. For most violinists he still is. He invented many of the advanced playing techniques that are nowadays demanded of professional violinists. They’re not for the faint of heart. Paganini was an absolute marvel.
In the third movement for instance, Paganini asked the player to retune the instrument, making the pitch a semitone higher. This kind of thing is called scordatura, and is usually used to create unexpected effects with chords, but it might also make the piece easier to play. In this case, it is used to contract the solo player with the orchestra.
Also, and here is where Paganini’s familiarity with the violin really shows, it lets the soloists play on open strings when the orchestra doesn’t. Playing on an open string (the string is not shortened by any fingering, but played as it is) always results in a bit brighter, louder sound. In this way the orchestra was seemingly playing a bit softer, allowing the soloist to shine.
Paganini played on the most famous Guarneri violin of them all: il Canone. So named because of its powerful voice. When he died, Paganini gave the violin to his city of Genoa, Italy. It is still there, treasured and kept in playing condition by its curator. Every month he takes it out of the protective cabinet to play it.
I couldn’t find a price estimate, but my guess would be in the millions. It’s worth to violinists must be higher however, as it is in perfect condition.
This recording is very nice, and I like the performance. Shizuka Ishikawa is a well known Japanese actress that played in many video games. Oh… wait. The other one. But she doesn’t have a wikipedia page! What to do? From what I can find she is indeed Japanese, particularly active in the Czech Republic, where she made numerous recordings. This record is indeed from that country.