In today’s edition of Il caffè di oggi, we would like to take a step back in music history and discuss famed violinist Giuseppe Tartini. Born in 1692 in Piran (today part of Slovenia), to a family originally from Florence, Giuseppe Tartini is still considered one of the greatest Baroque violin composers and teachers.
Tartini was known to be a very sensitive yet rebellious man. His temperament led him to participate in several sensational duels as a result of his various love affairs. At the age of eighteen, he secretly married the niece of Cardinal Cornaro, against her family’s wishes. Due to the ire of the Cardinal, Tartini had to abandon his wife and escape to a convent in Assisi. At the convent, Tartini honed his violin skills.
After reuniting with his wife years later, Tartini focused on perfecting his violin technique and dexterity. Tartini’s now near-obsession with the violin reached its apex when he became the first known owner of a violin made by Antonio Stradivari. In addition, in 1726 Tartini opened a violin school which attracted students from all over Europe. Several of his students became well known violinists, such as Gaetano Pugnani and Pietro Nardini.
When he passed away in Padua 250 years ago, Tartini left us with various treatises and more than 420 compositions. Among his compositions, the violin sonata in G minor “Il trillo del diavolo” stands out unmistakably. The creation of this sonata is still surrounded by a certain mystery.
The story goes that while living in the Franciscan convent in Assisi, Tartini dreamed of having made a pact with the devil who promised to fulfill his desires. The devil took his violin and played what Tartini described as the most beautiful and fascinating piece he has ever heard. When he woke up, he tried to transcribe the melody in what became his most famous piece, “Il trillo del diavolo”. Nevertheless, Tartini declared that his version was of much inferior quality than what he had heard in his dream. So much so, that if he had an another source of income, he would have broken his violin and abandoned music forever!
Burney, Charles.Viaggio musicale in Italia,1770. Sandron,1921, pp.54-55