Classical music library - Giuseppe Tartini

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Giuseppe Tartini (8 April 1692 – 26 February 1770) was an Italian Baroque composer and violinist.

Today, Tartini's most famous work is the "Devil's Trill Sonata," a solo violin sonata that requires a number of technically demanding double stop trills and is difficult even by modern standards. (One 19th-century myth had it that Tartini had six digits on his left hand, making these trills easier for him to play). According to a legend embroidered upon by Madame Blavatsky, Tartini was inspired to write the sonata by a dream in which the Devil appeared at the foot of his bed playing the violin.

Almost all of Tartini's works are violin concerti (at least 135) and violin sonatas. Tartini's compositions include some sacred works such as a Miserere, composed between 1739 and 1741 at the request of Pope Clement XII, and a Stabat Mater, composed in 1769. He also composed trio sonatas and a sinfonia in A. Tartini's music is problematic to scholars and editors because Tartini never dated his manuscripts, and he also revised works that had been published or even finished years before, making it difficult to determine when a work was written, when it was revised and what the extent of those revisions were. The scholars Minos Dounias and Paul Brainard have attempted to divide Tartini's works into periods based entirely on the stylistic characteristics of the music.

In addition to his work as a composer, Tartini was a music theorist, of a very practical bent. He is credited with the discovery of sum and difference tones, an acoustical phenomenon of particular utility on string instruments (intonation of double-stops can be judged by careful listening to the difference tone, the "terzo suono"). He published his discoveries in a treatise "Trattato di musica secondo la vera scienza dell'armonia'" (Padua, 1754). His treatise on ornamentation was eventually translated into French— though when its influence was rapidly waning, in 1771— by a certain "P. Denis," whose introduction called it "unique"; indeed, it was the first published text devoted entirely to ornament and, though it was all but forgotten, as only the printed edition survived, has provided first-hand information on violin technique for modern historically informed performances, once it was published in English translation by Sol Babitz in 1956. Of greater assistance to such performance was Erwin Jacobi's published edition. In 1961, Jacobi published a tri-lingual edition consisting of the French (basis of the following two), English (translation by Cuthbert Girdlestone), plus Jacobi's own translation into German (Giuseppe Tartini. "Traite des agrément de la musique," trans. and ed. Erwin Jacobi. Celle: Hermann Moeck Verlag, 1961). Of significant import, Jacobi's edition also includes a facsimile of the original Italian found in Venice in 1957, copied in the hand of Giovanni Nicolai (one of Tartini's best known students) and including an opening section on bowing and a closing section on how to compose cadenzas not previously known. Another copy (though less complete) of the Italian original was found among manuscripts purchased by the University of California, Berkeley in 1958, a collection that also included numerous ornamented versions of slow movements of concertos and sonatas, written in Tartini's hand. Minnie Elmer analyzed these ornamented versions in her master's thesis at UC, Berkeley in 1959 (Minnie Elmer. "The Improvised Ornamentation of Giuseppe Tartini. " Unpublished M. A. thesis. Berkeley, 1959).

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