Caprice is the French and English version of the Italian word "Capriccio," which is from the Latin "caper" meaning goat. Goats tend to caper about however it suits their fancy and in music, since the 16th century or so, caprice has been used for pieces in which composers follow their imaginations, their moods and whims, rather than strict rules.
In the 19th century, caprice and capriccio were among the many names composers gave to kinds of short, evocative pieces for solo piano know generically as character pieces. Among the most famous 19th century capriccios, however, are the 24 capriccios for solo violin by Niccolò Paganini. These capriccios, or caprices, are a set of extremely challenging short pieces that Paganini used to show off both his astonishing violin technique and his highly imaginative compositional technique.
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