5. Giuseppe Tartini
(born 4-8-1692- died 2-26-1770)
Tartini was an Italian composer and violinist. He was one of the most instrumental musical composers having written over 400 works. Unlike most of his contemporaries he wrote no church music or operas, he focused most of his work on violin concerti and sonatas. His most infamous piece is called the Devil’s Trill Sonata. The story behind “Devil’s Trill” starts with a dream. Tartini allegedly told the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that he dreamed that The Devil appeared to him and asked to be his servant. At the end of their lessons Tartini handed the devil his violin to test his skill—the devil immediately began to play with such virtuosity that Tartini felt his breath taken away. When the composer awoke he immediately jotted down the sonata, desperately trying to recapture what he had heard in the dream. Despite the sonata being successful with his audiences, Tartini lamented that the piece was still far from what he had heard in his dream. What he had written was, in his own words: “so inferior to what I had heard, that if I could have subsisted on other means, I would have broken my violin and abandoned music forever.” You can listen to part IV of the piece above – the most difficult section, played by Itzhak Perlman. If you prefer a more techno version of the piece, you can hear Vanessa Mae playing it here.