Devil's Trill History
The original title is 'Le Trille du Diable', it's a sonata which was
composed for violin & piano in B flat in the year of 1730.
This sonata by Tartini was called by his school, the 'Devil's Trill', on
account of a dream in which the Master said he saw the Devil at the foot
of his bed, executing the trill written in the final movement of the
Italy was the birthplace of the violin, and in Italy lived the founders
of the arts of writing for it.
Tartini was borned in the little town of Pirano, on April 8th, 1692.
At the time of his birth, the beginnings of the artistic development of
the violin as a solo instrument
were almost within the memory of living men. It fell to his lot to
develop the possiblities of the instrument and to enrich and dignify its
literature as few have done, vitalizing the art by the lasting influence
that he handed down through his pupils.
He was intended for the Church, and began as a boy to study for its
ministry - indeed, he received his first instruction in music at an
ecclesiastical school. But he soon discovered that the Church was not
his vocation. He seems to have been a roystering youth, much inclined to
the practice of fencing ; the violin he already knew as an amateur.
At eighteen he studying law at Padua ; but this, too, his was obliged to
give up; he had the temerity
to marry the niece of the Archbishop's pride that city, whereupon that
great personage forced him to flee from Padua and take refuge secretly
in a monastery at Assasi.
The two years of retirement that he passed here were decisive in shaping
his future career, for he spent them in musical study under the organist
of the institution and by himself, in practising the violin. The
Archbishop's pride having relented, Tartini was at last allowed to
rejoin his wife at Padua, and together they repaired to Venice. Here he
heard the great Florentine violinist, Veracini, whose playing impressed
him profoundly and showed him the deficiencies if his own style.
Now again he betook himself into complete retirement for 2 years,
leaving his wife and devoting all
his energies to study and practice. When he emerged, it was as a great
and finished artist, and he was appointed solo violinist at the Basilica
of San Antonio in Padua.
His reputation was speedly established, for in 1723, he was invited to
perform at the great festivities at the coronation of Charles VI. at
Here he met Count Kinsky (ancestor of Beethoven's princely patron and
friend of a century later),
who engaged him as conductor of his private orchestra
After 3 years Tartini returned to Padua, never again to leave it. Here
he grew in power and honors, as a musician and composer, and here he
founded a school where many distinguished violinist were formed, who
handed down to posterity the methods and traditions of a great master,
them Nardini and Pugnani, Graun and Benda. Tartini died in 1770, and his
memory is still perpetuated in Padua by a statue.
Tartini left a great name not only as a performer of originality, daring
and consummate power, who
enlarged the scope and capacity of his instrument, but also as a
composer whose works for the violin still live and are played as
classics, and as a theorist whose discovery of an important phenomenon
in acoustics - that of' combination tones' - will always be associated
with his name, though his essays on acoustics have been superseded by
His contemporaries praise the beauty of his tone, his remarkable command
of the technique of the left hand, his perfect intonation in double
stopping, his warm and passionate style, that never transcended the
bounds of perfect taste, as taste was then regarded.
But it was for his development of the possiblities of the bow that he
should chiefly be held in reverence by the modern violinist.
He it was who first found the value of a long , elastic bow, that
responds to the player's slightest pressure and gives him command of all
varieties of tone-color, of all degrees of force and the limitless power
of expression in phrasing that elevates the violin above all other
His own style of playing sought fully to realize the value that lay in
this new found element ; and if any one thing be designated as showing
his influence in advancing the art of the violinist, it must be his
teaching and practice of bowing.
His qualities as an artist are reflected in his compositons, which are
likewise important contributions
to the art of his day, and are still cherised by connoisseurs. Naturaly
some of there, in the laspe
of a hundred and fifty years, have lost their savor ; but the survival
of so many of them is a proof of the inherent vitality of his creative
We need not expect to find in them any overwhelming departure from the
spirit and style of the age in which Tartini lived ; but we may discern
a greater freedom and variety of emotional expressiveness, a less rigid
adherence to the principles of formal beauty and dignity of expression
than marked the works of his great predecessors, such as Corelli.
There are no fewer than 50 sonatas and 24 concertos in the list of
Tartini's published works; and those unpublished the tale seems little
less than fabulous, in this days of labories production - one authority
speaks of more than 200 concertos and another of 48 sonatas.
One of Tartini's most noted works is the sonata called 'Il Trillo del
Diavolo' (The Devil's Trill).
which was not published till his death, and with which a well-known and
curious anecdote is connected. Dr.Burney, who visited Padua a few months
after Tartini's death, tell it thus quaintly,
translating it from the 'Voyage d'un Francais' of Lalande, who had it
from Tartini's own lips :
"He dreamed one night, in 1713, that he had made a compat with the
Devil, who promised to be at his service on all occasions; and during
this vision everything succeeded according to his mind.
In short, he imagined he gave the Devil his violin, in order to discover
what kind of a musician he was; when to his great astonishment, he heard
him play a solo so singularly beautiful and executed with such superior
taste and precision, that it surpassed all he has ever heard ofr
conceived in his life.
So great was his surprise and so exquisite his delight upon this
occasion that it deprived him of the power of breathing. He awoke with
the violence of his sensation, and instantly seized his fiddlem in hopes
of expressing what he had just heard, but in vain ; he, however, then
composed a piece, which is perhaps the best of all his works (he called
it the 'Devil's Sonata'), but it was so inferior to what his sleep had
produced that he declared he should have broken his instrument and
abandoned music forever, if he could have subsisted by any other means."