7 Jul 2013

Giuseppe Tartini (1692 –1770)

From Composer of the Week, 9:15 am on 7 July 2013

We dip into the world of devilishly good violin playing with the music of Giuseppe Tartini as we commemorate his most famous Violin Sonata in G minor otherwise known as the Devil’s Trill, which came to him in a dream 300 years ago. Peter Hoar explores the Devil’s Trill as part of a broad cultural continuum and introduces us to Tartini’s life and work as an accomplished swordsman, musician, composer, and a man who was something of a profound mystic.

Tartini believed that he had been specifically entrusted with a particular task by God - this mission was no less than revealing the principles that underlay and unified the universe. And the way he was to do this was through music.

Tartini's Dream

Tartini's Dream Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Tartini s Dream by Louis Leopold Boilly. Source: National Library of France

One night, in the year 1713 I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. Everything went as I wished: my new servant anticipated my every desire. Among other things, I gave him my violin to see if he could play. How great was my astonishment on hearing a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such great art and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted: my breath failed me, and - I awoke. I immediately grasped my violin in order to retain, in part at least, the impression of my dream. In vain! The music which I at this time composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I still call it the "Devil's Trill", but the difference between it and that which so moved me is so great that I would have destroyed my instrument and have said farewell to music forever if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it affords me. 

From Voyage d'un français en Italie (1769), by Joseph Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande

Music Details

Giuseppe Tartini: The Devil’s Trill - Vanessa Mae (EMI 7243 4 98082 25)
Giuseppe Tartini: Concerto for violin in G major; 3. Presto - Ensemble 415, Chiara Banchini (HMC 901548)
Giuseppe Tartini: Sonate (Brainard A3) in Am Cantabile - Chiara Banchini (Zig-Zag Territoires, ZZT 080502)
Giuseppe Tartini: Sonate XXVII in D; aria del Tasso - Chiara Banchini (Zig-Zag Territoires, ZZT 080502)
Giuseppe Tartini: La Sonata Del Diavolo In G Minor - Andante, Allegro, Adagio - Andrew Manze (Harmonia Mundi 907213)
Giuseppe Tartini: Concerto for Violin in A minor 'Lunardo Venier'; 3. Presto - Ensemble 415, Chiara Banchini (HMC 901548)
Jagger/Richards: Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones (Virgin CDVD2964)
Stravinsky: Triumphal March of the Devil - Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi (Chandos: CHAN 9189)
Robert Johnson: Me and the Devil Blues - Robert Johnson (Columbia CL 1654)
Charlie Daniels: The Devil Went Down to Georgia - The Charlie Daniels Band
Giuseppe Tartini: Sonate II in Bm; Allegro affettuoso  - Chiara Banchini (Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT 080502)