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Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) was a violin composer and expert who instituted a violin school in Padua.1 He was one of the grand composers, violinists and theorists of the 18th century as well as a contemporary of Pietro Antonio Locatelli. His contemporaries evidently considered him the leading performer in Italy.
He was further a great violin teacher and one of Corelli’s pupils. This paper discusses Giuseppe Tartini and his violin sonata “Devils Trill.”
Background of Giuseppe Tartini
Giuseppe Tartini was born in the city of Piran in contemporary Slovenia on April 1962. 2 His family was among the oldest aristocratic families in the region. Tartini was introduced to basic music education at an early age. After getting his basic learning from priests at Capodistria he studied law at Padua University.3In 1710, his covert marriage to Elisabetta made him to acquire the wrath of the Bishop of Padua, impelling him to hide.4
By 1714, he was working in the opera orchestra at Ancona.5 A year later, he reconciled with his spouse and they moved to Padua. In 1716, he heard Veracini play in Padua and found himself lost in the world of virtuoso’s violin. As result, he secluded himself as he practiced to make his performance perfect.6
In 1720, he became the “primo violin ecapo di concerto” at St. Antonio upon returning in Padua. He held this position until in 1765. Starting from 1723, Tartini worked at Prague before going to Padua.7
Between 1720 and 1740, Tartini took pleasure in his work prior to the Bergamo accident where he was seriously hurt. In 1727 and 1728, he established his violin school whereby he taught how to play the sonata.8
His students included Nardini, J.G. Naumann, Panganelli, J.G. Graun and Pagin. Tartini’s Treatise came into public after his death, although it is likely that he had begun the work earlier than 1756.9
Tartini documented his findings when handling sonatas in the Treatise.10 He used terzo suono as his hypothetical system. Allegedly, he had discovered it earlier on. 11 His compositions include a few sacred vocal pieces that were printed in the last year of his life, 125 violin concertos, concertos for other instruments, several trio sonatas and 175 violin sonatas, including the “Devil’s Trill.”
The actual dates of this composition are unknown, although the work could not have been composed after 1750, since Leopold Mozart quotes the whole of the first “devil’s trill” in his Violinsc hule of 1756 as an illustration of an accompanied trill.12
Similar to most composers who lived during the middle years, Tartini was a man of compelling character and obsessive artistry. As a teacher, he introduced several impulses in the creative empire.
Tartini took the violin into a heroic phase. Though recognized deeply for the great and technically demanding “Devils Trill,” sonata (unpublished during his lifetime) Tartini developed a highly communicative method of playing, noted for its cantable style, sensitive ornamentation and a particular pre-Romantic pathos (mirrored in the poetic mottoes at the start of most of his works).
These were traits inherited and embellished by his beloved learner, Pietro Nardini (1722-1793), who intentionally disdained technical display in support of a delicate judicious and highly finished technique.13
Tartini’s “Devils Trill”
One of the greatest violin sonatas composed by Tartini was the “Devil’s Trill.” Tartini is famous since he is the author of this distinct work, which maintains a unique draw amid the organizers, performers and the community because of the attractiveness of the music, the challenge of its technical intricacy, and the romantic state of the final movement.
This was the only work of Tartini that was widespread in the nineteenth century, although it did not obtain whole publication during his existence. 14This name, the “Devil’s Trill” was derived from a dream that Tartini experienced. Tartini narrates the complete story in Lalande’s Voyage d’un François en Italie (1765-66).15
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In the dream, Tartini met with the devil in 1713.He made an agreement with the devil about his soul and all things went right. The devil then took the sonata so that he could play it 16To his surprise, the devil played the sonata in such a wonderful and striking way.
He also played with great art and aptitude, more than what Tartini had ever imagined. He felt enraptured, ecstatic and enthralled. His breath failed him and he woke up instantly and clutched on to the violin. This is when he composed the “Devil’s Trill.”
Tartini recognizes that this is the best piece that he has ever written. However, he expresses his grievances that this piece could not measure up to the music that he experienced in the dream.
He says that the difference between the “Devil’s Trill and that which so moved him was so huge that he would have shattered his instrument and said goodbye to music perpetually if it had been feasible for him to live without the pleasure it gave him. The Devil’s Trill Sonata ought to have disseminated in script for several years before Cartier published it in 1798.
The work itself is technically sophisticated and very difficult to play. It has a chain of double-stop trills and requires playing two notes simultaneously while also swiftly alternating between two neighboring notes that are a tone apart. In fact, the mode of playing the trill resembles playing a guitar while bending two strings and striking the two notes very high on the neck.17
Due to the intricacy of playing this sonata, people in the 19th century began creating myths. They said that Tartini played the sonata because he had six fingers on his left hand and that is why he pulled off the sonata so accurately.
They also said that those who played the sonata were forming links with the devil, and their souls would forever stay with the devil. Rumor had it that the song was cast out from heaven realm due to its negativity against God.
The violin acts as the main instrument in this sonata. A bass line with coded signals for harmonies support the violin. A keyboard or a bass instrument like cello could have played the “continuo” portion. The violin starts with a soothing movement, its calm persistence hinting at darker things to arise. A crisp virtuoso follows the soothing movement before a slow passage that signifies Tartini’s state of dream.
The slow music swaps with a new Allegro (a slack variation of the second movement) that contains the real “Devil’s Trill” passage and an increasing series of double stops with the trill on the higher string.18The Allegro also alternates dramatic signs with flowing passages calling for the most balanced bow arm feasible. The legendary last movement is essentially two steps in one.
In the movement, Tartini swaps the starting Grave with the Allegro, and its legendary trills. Playing these trills becomes so difficult because the violinist has to play a bowed melody on a different string concurrently. Close to the end, the sonata makes a break for a lengthy solo cadenza prior to a magnificent close on the Grave tune. Tartini’s piece thus, follows three movements.
The first movement, also known as ‘affetuoso,’ makes way for an Allegro and then the Presto. These movements contain melodies in cantabile style, which were atypical of Tartini.
Tartini’s “Devil’s Trill,” is also referred to as the Sonata in G minor. This sonata belongs to a group of 12 sonatas that obtained publication in 1746. Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), a lead violinist and a fine composer, made another version of the Sonata that contained an even more satanic cadenza.
Tartini’s personal solo sonatas Op.1 (1734) obtained influence from the mode and compositional nature of Corelli’s Op.5, similar to sonatas of other students of Corelli, Geminiani and Locatelli. Among the Op.1 sonatas, the closing movement of No.12 is a variation. It comprises a theme and eight variations. The theme is a binary Allegro of two diverse phrases of eight measures, each of which is recurring.
The time signature is ¾, and the theme comprises simple quarter and eighth notes. The primary two pairs of measures of each variation are alike, apart from the fifth and the seventh variations. In the fifth and seventh variations, there is much difference in the last beat of the melodic number of the fourth measure.
Tartini’s Treatise on ornamentation seems to have been extensively popular and disseminated throughout Europe. In the Treatise, Tartini’s offers a logical and unique counsel regarding the use of the trill to performers and singers. The most significant ornament during the times of Tartini was the trill. Presently, the trill is the most the most contentious ornament and the conflict arises due to the upper note start.
Presentation of the trill’s upper note start used monotonous promptness from the middle of the 17th century. Looking at the work of Tartini from Mozart’s perspective, beginning trills with an upper note is not mandatory.
This is also supported by the fact that Tartini gives an extensive explanation about the trill and does not say that a player must begin on the upper note. However, the text in the Treatise indirectly supports an upper-note start 19
Tartini views the trill like salt in food, which ought to be in desired amounts. Trills have diverse tempos and an excellent player knows how to match pace with mood. Starting of trills can occur from top or bottom. Also, there exists different ways of ending trills.
According to Tartini, a violinist can make a trill through pressing the lower note and striking it , or through using the arm to move the hand in an undulating motion. 20This differs from Carl Flesch’s Bochstriller, which uses the arm at an elevated position.
The term mordent means a pre-beat turn.21 In the Treatise, Tartini establishes two types of grace notes and he calls them mordent. The first grace note has a melodic a turn, while the other has a real turn with several alternations. The melodic type, which constitutes notes preceding and focusing on the primary note, exists in two forms.22Tartini orders rapid playing of graces.
However, he warns that the two notes should not sound separately, but as a piece of a whole affect which is vigorous and energetic. Accents on the primary note may fall down but not the graces.23 For instance, the primary note in the valid mordent with the alternation possesses the accent and ornament players must be swift.
The French version of Tartini’s work offers an erroneous description of the two natures of turns, indicating a rhythmic ambivalence. Mordents of Tartini are turns from either underneath or above and they should not stand on notes where some accents are unsuitable. The authentic mordent is the same as the current mordent. At first glimpse, the authentic mordent resembles a short trill that falls instead of going up.
Depending on how fast the fingers are, the authentic mordent can assume 4-6 notes.24This difference could have been because in French, ornaments were mandatory, while Italian embellishment was elective, to be supplied only if the player could build on the original. In other word, the Italians did not have a printed representation of the mordent.
The vibrato acted as an ornament occasionally. Tartini described a vibrato ornament as the product of simulating a wave action in the air, on stringed gadgets. He explains that when stringed and excellent-bowed gadget leaves are simulated, they leave behind vibrato.25
Tartini belittled its application on half-phases. He as well discovered that a vibrato was more efficient on dual phases on long notes and concluding notes of phrases. 26
The contemporary arm vibrato was unheard of in the 18th century, and producing it would have been impractical, due to the absence of an updated chin-rest. It was difficult for the performer to control the tempo because the left arm worked towards creation of vibrato.
The handling of the instrument was different as the hand rotated in the direction of the bridge, and not the scroll 27Other differences between the 18th and 20th century violin sound are due to tension in the hair and string as well as transformations in the type of the bow.
Tartini’s Treatise handles the two modes (natural and artificial), in the second part. Tartini’s artificial and natural modes deviate from the French meaning (means keys) since they refer to the way of introducing ornamental records, resembling the divisions of Elizabethan compositions. According to Tartini, the process of handling a bass line involves the use of cadential points. 28
Such points appear irrespective of whether the melody is incomplete, or a full stop occurs. These are what he refers to as natural figures. Tartini relates cadential marks to punctuation in texts.29 The main cells in cadential figures are few in number and simple. Therefore, they are set at length unlike compound figures that occur physically. 30
On the contrary, artificial figurations exist in large quantities and it would be crucial to take care of all the potential permutations. Artificial figurations deal with compositions and follow the principle of good taste. One may create notions about these cadenHces through investigating the potential thorough-bass developments.
Natural cadences are best defined as the points in phrases where pieces of music stop.31 On the contrary, artificial cadences occur in areas with a fermata sign, and the performer has the capability to spin them out whenever he or she desires.32
The days of Tartini were marked by the use of the artificial cadence. However, players of those times experienced more restrictions on the freedom to embellish. Musicians increasingly issued more clear instructions, as time lapsed, and more players begun to focus their improvisatory desires on the cadenza.
Setting of the Treatise
Tartini connects Vivaldi, the earlier technique and Viotti classicism33 His reputation came from an odd combination of abilities (a composer, a teacher and a violin player). Tartini composed about 400 works in a period of four decades starting from 1720 to 1760.
His technique transformed steadily from baroque to gallant. 34 Quantz condemned Tartini’s techniques, but extolled his striking, sweet, tone aimed more at communicating than authority, and his knowledge of the great intricacies implicated in trills. Quantz’s criticsm on Tartini reflected his bias towards the Italian technique of music.
Tartini’s life was comparatively ordinary and inactive considering his popularity in the entire Europe during the 18th century, since he was the best violin player and instructor of his days. Tartini was famous for his polite and modest conduct, kindness, compassion and paternal concern in his learners.
Many of his compositions were full of visionary mysticism and secret-code slogans. Tartini was a genius of his time who was not merely a teacher and composer, but an author who handled contemporary criticism of his technical work with the seriousness it deserved.
Tartini’s compositions vanished from active shows, but went on serving as a reference in studies. Burney’s printed two views of Tartini (in 1770 and 1788) and both reflected his transformation in musical experience. The Academy
In 172, Tartini established a violin school, which many European students joined.35 Tartini worked, as a violin teacher, for long hours at the school, since this is where he obtained his daily income. This school existed for over 40 years. Learners at this school collected all Tartini’s lessons and compiled them in a book called “The Treatise.”
This book was distinctive because it was the earliest pedagogical work to feature the rationale behind and applications of ornamentation. Besides, this piece presented information that did not exist in other books of the time.
Thus, Tartini’s Treatise was among the most important works during the early years of the 18th century, although Italy did not publish it. Mozart used Tartini’s Treatise in 1756 and this denotes that the work existed by 1750s.
Although the actual dates of the creation of Tartini’s Treatise remains unknown, it could have begun any from 1728 when Tartini established the school to 1754, the year that Mozart started his work. The earliest document, which had gone missing, was found in two different prints, one at Venice and another at Berkeley.
In conclusion, Tartini was a teacher, a violin player and composer. Although he composed other pieces, his greatest work was the “Devils Trill.” The violin acts as the main instrument in this sonata. The violin starts with a soothing movement, its calm persistence hinting at darker things to arise. A crisp virtuoso follows the soothing movement before a slow passage that signifies Tartini’s state of dream.
The slow music swaps with a new Allegro that contains the real “Devil’s Trill” passage and an increasing series of double stops with the trill on the higher string. The Allegro also alternates dramatic signs with flowing passages calling for the most balanced bow arm feasible. The legendary last movement is essentially two steps in one.
In the movement, Tartini swaps the starting Grave with the Allegro, and its legendary trills. Playing these trills becomes so difficult since the violinist has to play a bowed melody on a different thread concurrently.
Close to the end, there is a stop made by the sonata for a solo cadenza prior to a magnificent close on the Grave tune. Tartini’s piece thus, follows three movements. The first movement, also known as affetuoso, makes way for an Allegro and then the Presto.
In the Treatise, Tartini offers a logical and unique counsel regarding the use of the trill to performers and singers. According to Tartini, a violinist can produce a trill through pressing the lower note and striking the trill, or through using the wrist to take the hand in an undulating motion. In addition, Tartini establishes two types of grace notes and he calls them mordent.
The first grace note has a melodic a turn, while the other has a real turn with several alternations. Mordents of Tartini are turns from either underneath or above and their position should not be on notes where some accents are unsuitable. In the second piece of the Treatise, Tartini handles artificial and natural modes. According to Tartini, some cadential points seem like figurations when handling a bass line.
Such points appear irrespective of whether the melody is incomplete, or a full stop occurs and these are what he refers to as natural figures. On the contrary, artificial figurations exist in large quantities and it would be crucial to take care of all the potential permutations.
Tartini’s Treatise was among the most important works during the early years of the 18th century, although Italy did not publish it. Italians were very concerned with music and art in the 18th century. During this time, the violin and its virtuosi became very important and thus, Tartini’s work gained much significance.
“Giuseppe Tartini (1692 – 1770).” Web.
“Ornamentation in Giuseppe Tartini’s Traité des Agréments.” Best Students violin. Web.
Randel, Don Michael. The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996.
1. Don Michael, Randel, The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music [Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996], 902.
3. “Giuseppe Tartini (1692 – 1770)”.
5. Ibid., par.1.
6. Ibid., par.3.
7. Ibid., par. 2.
8 . Ibid., par. 3.
9. Ibid., par.1.
10. Ibid., par. 2.
11. Ibid., par.3.
12. Don Michael, 902.
14. “Ornamentation in Giuseppe Tartini’s Traité des Agréments,” Best Students violin.
15. “Giuseppe Tartini (1692 – 1770)”.
17. “Ornamentation in Giuseppe Tartini’s Traité des Agréments,” Best Students violin.
18. “Giuseppe Tartini (1692 – 1770)”.
19. “Ornamentation in Giuseppe Tartini’s Traité des Agréments,” Best Students violin.
21. Ibid., Par.5.
22. Ibid., par.7.
23. Ibid., par. 8.
24. Ibid., par. 7.
25. Ibid., par. 9.
26. Ibid., par.8.
27. Ibid., par. 9.
28. Ibid., par. 10.
29. Ibid., par.11.
30. Ibid., par. 10.
31. Ibid., par. 11.
32. Ibid., par. 11.
33. Ibid., par. 12.
34. Ibid., par. 13.
35. Don Michael, 902.