by Blair Johnston
Despite Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini’s important place in musical history, he remains known to most musicians only as the composer of the “Devil’s Trill” violin sonata. Born on the Istrian peninsula in 1692, Tartini was the son of a minor government official in the city of Pirano (now Piran, Slovenia). Although his parents had selected a monastic life for Tartini when he was very young, in 1708 he rejected his clerical training to pursue a course of instruction in music. Soon, however, he seems to have enrolled at the University of Padua as a student of law, and was more famed during his younger days as a dueler and swordsman than as a trained musician. Despite still officially being a candidate for the priesthood, Tartini married in 1710, and, having thereby incurred the wrath of the Paduan bishop, found it necessary to hide out in the monastery at Assisi for a time. He put his time to good use: apparently he made a rigorous study of music, and by 1714 he seems to have found employment with the opera orchestra at Ancona.
Reunited with his wife in 1715, Tartini spent the next several years trying to perfect his violin technique. The legend is that he heard the virtuoso Francesco Veracini perform and resolved to live in isolation until he could accomplish the same amazing feats of dexterity. By 1720, he was engaged as soloist and leader of the orchestra at St. Anthony’s in Padua. Until an arm injury in 1740 seriously limited his career, Tartini fulfilled his duties at St. Anthony’s even as he built a widespread reputation as the leading violinist of his day. He made an extended visit to Prague between 1723 and 1726. Officially retiring from St. Anthony’s in 1765, Tartini remained active as a teacher until a mild stroke, which he suffered in 1768, incapacitated him even further. Tartini died in 1770, the year of Beethoven’s birth.
Tartini was the founder of an important school of violin playing, subsequently disseminated by such noteworthy pupils as Pietro Nardini and Johann Gottlieb Naumann. Because he did not seek fame as a composer, very little of Tartini’s music was published during his lifetime. Some 135 violin concerti and over 200 violin sonatas (some of which, however, are spurious) still survive in manuscript form. A smattering of sacred vocal works (such as the Stabat Mater composed during the final year of his life) and a few sinfonias, trio sonatas, and four-part sonatas round off Tartini’s considerable output. In addition to his activities as a violinist and composer, Tartini became increasingly interested in theories of acoustics and harmony as the years went by, and his 1754 theoretical treatise Trattato di musica secondo la vera scienza dell’armonia attempts to account for contemporary harmonic thinking in terms of the overtone series and to promote Tartini’s own discovery of “sub-tones” in that series. Despite its lofty intentions (or perhaps because of them) the Trattato is not a particularly accurate or informative text; it does, however, provide great insight into the mind of this remarkable musician.
Some More interesting info on Tartini:
Italian violinist, composer and musical theorist, was born at Tirano in Istria on the 12th of April 1692. In early life he studied, with equal want of success, for the church, the law courts, and the profession of arms. As a young man he was wild and irregular, and he crowned his improprieties by clandestinely marrying the niece of Cardinal Cornaro, Archbishop of Padua. The cardinal resented the marriage as a disgraceful mésalliance, and denounced it so violently that the unhappy bridegroom, thinking his life in danger, fled for safety to a monastery at Assisi, where his character underwent a complete change. He studied the theory of music under Padre Boemo, the organist of the monastery, and, without any assistance whatever, taught himself to play the violin in so masterly a style that his performances in the church became the wonder of the neighborhood. For more than two years his identity remained undiscovered, but one day the wind blew aside a curtain behind which he was playing, and one of his hearers recognized him and betrayed his retreat to the cardinal, who, hearing of his changed character, readmitted him to favor and restored him to his wife.
Tartini next removed to Venice, where the fine violin-playing of Veracini excited his admiration and prompted him to repeir, by the aid of good instruction, the shortcomings of his own self-taught method. He left his wife with relations and returned to Ancona, where he studied for a time. In 1721 he returned to Padua, where he was appointed solo violinist at the church of San Antonio. From 1723 to 1725 he acted as conductor of Count Kinsky’s private band in Prague. In 1728 he founded a school for violin in Padua. The date of his presence in Rome does not seem to be clearly established, but he was in Bologna in 1739. Afterwards he returned to his old post in Padua, where he died on the 16th of February 1770.
Tartini’s compositions are very numerous, and faithfully illustrate his passionate and masterly styie of execution, which surpassed in brilliancy and refined taste that of all his contemporaries. He frequently headed his pieces with an explanatory poetical motto, such as “Ombra cara”, or “Volgete il riso in pianto o mie pupille.” Concerning that known as Il Trillo del Diavolo, or The Devil’s Sonata, he told a curious story to Lalande, in 1766. He dreamed that the devil had become his slave, and that he one day asked him if he could play the violin. The devil replied that he believed he could pick out a tune, and thereupon he played a sonata so exquisite that Tartini thought he had never heard any music to equal it. On awaking he tried to note down the composition, but succeeded very imperfectly, though the Devil’s Sonata is one of his best productions.
Tartini is historically important as having contributed to the science of acoustics as well as to musical art by his discovery (independently of Sorge, 1740, to whom the primary credit is now given) of what are still called “Tartini’s tones”, or differential tones.
The phenomenon is this: when any two notes are produced steadily and with great intensity, a third note is heard, whose vibration number is the difference of those of the two primary notes. It follows from this that any two consecutive members of a harmonic series have the fundamental of that series for their difference tone — thus, (E/C), the fourth and fifth harmonic, produce (C), the prime or generator, at the interval of two octaves under the lower of those two notes; (E/G), the third and fifth harmonic, produce (C), the second harmonic, at the interval of a 5th under the lower of those two notes. The discoverer was wont to tell his pupils that their double-stopping was not in tune unless they could hear the third note; and Henry Blagrove (1811-1872) gave the same admonition. The phenomenon has other than technical significance; an experiment by Sir F. A. G. Ouseley showed that two pipes, tuned by measurement to so acute a pitch as to render the notes of both inaudible by human ears, when blown together produce the difference of tone of the inaudible primaries, and this verifies the fact of the infinite upward range of sound which transcends the perceptive power of human organs. The obverse of this fact is that of any sound being deepened by an 8th if the length of the string or pipe which produces it be doubled. The law is without exception throughout the compass in which our ears can distinguish pitch, and so, of necessity, a string of twice the length of that whose vibrations induce the deepest perceivable sound must stir the air at such a rate as to cause a tone at an 8th below that lowest audible note. It is hence manifest that, however limited our sense of the range of musical sound, this range extends upward and downward to infinity. Tartini made his observations the basis of a theoretical system which he set forth in his Trattato di Musica, Secondo la Vera Scienzia dell’Armonia (Padua, 1754) and Dei Principij dell’Armonia Musicale (Padua, 1767). He also wrote a Trattato delle Appogiature, posthumously printed in French, and an unpublished work, Delle Ragioni e delle Proporzioni, the manuscript of which has been lost.
Andrew Manze – Biography
by Joseph Stevenson
Andrew Manze has emerged as one of the leading violinists in the early music movement. He specializes in music from between 1610 and 1830. His education began at Cambridge, where he studied Classics. He then moved on to music studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London and at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, studying with both Simon Standage and Marie Leonhardt. Manze then joined the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, remaining there until 1993. The following year he began collaborating with harpsichordist Richard Egarr. One of their major releases presented a 1712 collection of violin sonatas by the French composer Jean-Féry Rebel. Meanwhile, Manze formed the group Romanesca, with harpsichordist John Tell and lutenist Nigel North; the trio specialized in music of the seventeenth century. In 1996 Manze was appointed associate director and concertmaster of the London-based Baroque group The Academy of Ancient Music. In the 2003-2004 season, he became music director of The English Concert.
Manze is well-known in Britain for his broadcast work. He has become a popular “presenter” on BBC radio, and made his debut with the BBC Promenade Concert in 1998. That concert was televised nationally, with Manze playing concertos by Pergolesi, Bach, Vivaldi, and Mozart, and introducing the public to the enthusiasm and directness of the new ways of performing Baroque and Classic music.
Recording for the French Harmonia Mundi label, Manze won Gramophone, Edison, and Cannes Classical awards for his recording with Romanesca of Biber’s flashy and mystical violin sonatas. His playing of Vivaldi’s newly discovered “Manchester” sonatas won the Premio Internazionale del Disco Vivaldi Antica Italiana. His album Phantasticus won the Cannes Classical Award and a Diapason D’Or. The later award was also given to his recording of Schmelzer’s violin sonatas. Manze was named the 1998 Classical Artist of the Year.
Manze is in demand as an expert in Baroque music interpretation. He serves as a performance advisor and director for the European Community Baroque Orchestra, gives master classes, and has been visiting professor at the Royal College of Music in London. He is also a busy soloist on the international concert scene, appearing in one season with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Canadian early music group Tafelmusik, and the Berlin Philharmonic.
He is known for his freedom of ornamentation, bringing an improvisatory excitement to his concerts. Manze lives with his wife (also a violinist) in England’s Cotswolds region.
More on Manze:
Andrew Manze is an internationally known English violinist whom The New York Times has called “the Grappelli of the baroque.” Manze is not only a highly accomplished chamber player but associate director of the prestigious Academy of Ancient Music based in London. He shared his contagious enthusiasm with us in a break between rehearsals.
Andrew Manze mastered the violin gradually, almost as a dilettante. At the age of ten, after he had been playing the recorder for a few years, someone suggested that he should study a “real” instrument. His spontaneous choice was the oboe, but the orthodontist thought otherwise. He then opted for the practical solution of studying the violin – “the instrument in the house” (his father played it as a youngster). The school music program provided an admirable start. “By the time I was 11, I was already playing in an orchestra. I’ve played in orchestras ever since! At 14, I did my first international tour. When I was 18 years old, I was quite well travelled. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn orchestral technique on the spot.”
His love of baroque music developed during his studies at Cambridge. Even though he was studying classics (Greek and Latin), he continued to play the violin. His friend Richard Egarr had just discovered the harpsichord. He organized a baroque ensemble and persuaded Manze to try his hand. “It was a struggle at first but I’m glad now I discovered that repertoire. Richard is still talking to me and I’m still talking to him!” he chuckles.
Other youthful encounters also transformed his life. The wife of the great harpsichordist, Gustav Leonhardt, took him under her wing. Mrs. Leonhardt, a musician herself, was “a wonderful guide,” says Manze. In 1988 he met Ton Koopman, conductor of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. “It clicked right away. We appealed to one another,” Manze remembers. Koopman hired Manze then and there. He made his debut with the orchestra in the second violin section, but moved quickly to concertmaster.
Manze left Amsterdam in 1993 to devote his time to conducting. He feels that freedom is a must for interpreting baroque music. “After all, when you are the first to play that repertoire, you can’t ask anyone for input. The music was very much alive then and it still should be today. If a listener goes to hear a concert, we owe it to him to give a one-of-a-kind experience. If I were to play one piece the same way I did two months ago, it would be missing a key ingredient: flexibility. The performance obviously varies depending on how the musician is feeling. It should also depend on the venue you are playing in, its acoustics. It can be strongly affected by the character of the audience, how they react to the experience. For example, the German public take their baroque music very seriously, listening with great concentration. I look forward to playing in Canada, a nation I don’t know very well. It’s always interesting to feel, to experience an audience and find out what happens to the music as a result.”
Paradoxically, the essence of baroque music is somewhat defeated by its mass popularity, Manze outlines the irony of the situation. “We’re asked to play in rooms way too big for the instruments, originally designed to be played in churches or small domestic venues.” He remembers the Domaine Forget concert hall in great detail, and considers it an ideal venue.
Asked why baroque music has become so popular in recent years, Manze suggested several reasons. “If the music is well chosen and presented in the right spirit, it is extremely good quality music. Bach can stand comparison to any of the major composers. The music is also extremely well structured, very melodic, entertaining and it has got drama to it.” He draws a parallel with the attraction western civilization feels for novelty. “Music lovers are interested in new repertoire but they’ve been burnt by some contemporary music. They become wary of it. Maybe baroque music benefited from the fact that a lot of contemporary music is not accessible. It must be possible to write contemporary music which says all the things you want to say but doesn’t provoke the ‘yuck’ feeling!”
Manze doesn’t entirely reject contemporary repertoire: on the contrary, his wife is actually a specialist in this rarefied field, and the Academy of Ancient Music has interpreted John Tavener’s Eternity’s Sunrise (in 1998) and Total Eclipse (June 20, 2000). Tavener is one of the most popular English composers of the day, and Manze appreciated being able to ask him about specific details of interpretation. In the process, he learned that composers are generally not dogmatic. “It’s cowardly to justify oneself with an ‘I ought to do this.’ It’s like hiding on stage behind a corpse. I always imagine what the composer would say if he were there. He probably wouldn’t be concentrating on my question; he probably would be amazed by the technological progress. His music would be the last thing he would want to talk about.”
Manze’s crowded schedule doesn’t give him time for regular pupils. He enjoys master classes, however. “The questions asked by students are often the same questions I ask myself.” Some of his former students have become fellow musicians at the Academy of Ancient Music, something he feels is a natural development. He speaks with great pride of “his” orchestra, which recently celebrated its 26th birthday. “The Academy of Ancient Music has achieved a great momentum. It is filled with great experience collectively. It took time to build the trust but now the musicians trust me completely. I don’t quite know moment to moment what will be happening.” Manze usually conducts from his position as concert master and seems becomingly modest about his personal prestige. He is looking forward to the orchestra’s North American tour in November 2000.
Chamber music remains an important part of his life as a musician. He spent 10 years with harpsichordist John Toll and lutist Nigel North in the Romanesca Trio. A number of award-winning recordings came from this collaboration. Manze had to give it up in 1999, when Nigel North accepted a post at the renowned Indiana University School of Music. His friendship with harpsichordist Richard Egarr reflects a similar meeting of minds on the artistic and intuitive level. Egarr will accompany Manze in August in Bach sonatas for harpsichord obligato and violin. Manze and Egarr have been exploring the rich baroque repertoire for 16 years now. “We love to surprise one another. It keeps the experience fresh and interesting,” says Manze.
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Amazon’s Best of 1998
Violinist Andrew Manze did something truly breathtaking in 1998–he transformed the way we hear Giuseppe Tartini’s The Devil’s Sonata by playing it solo, without accompaniment. And we’ll never hear it the same way again. It’s a riveting performance, filled with as much improvisation as many jazz compositions, and yet it remains thoroughly faithful to Tartini’s vision (Manze was inspired to play the work solo by the composer’s own correspondence). Hands down, one of the best Baroque performances ever. –Jason Verlinde
Amazon essential recording
This is one of the craziest classical CDs you will ever hear, but the madness is inspired. Andrew Manze, following a suggestion in one of Tartini’s letters, gets rid of the published accompaniment and plays these pieces on the solo violin. In the other three works he takes plenty of liberties, but in the famous Devil’s Trill Sonata he embellishes, improvises, departs from the text and comes back again. The verbal description sounds like my idea of a nightmare, but the execution is so inspired that this is one of the most compelling Baroque performances ever. Whether it is “authentic” or not, I have no idea, and Manze probably doesn’t either. But this is a recording you will remember. –Leslie Gerber
BBC Music (5/98, p.63) – Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 5 (out of 5) – “…In the hands of Andrew Manze, [‘The Devil’s Sonata’] transcends its complexities to become a beautiful and compelling piece of music, closely followed by the Pastorale, with its fantastical Grave, and the other works here…”
A customer said:
If I wish to demonstrate to someone why the ‘Baroque Violin’ is special, this is the album I play to them. There is no ‘modern’ rendering that approaches it. The dynamic range, intimacy and passion inherent in this CD are incomparable. Though I am sure the adherents of Josh Bell, Sarah Chang and Vanessa Mae would hoot me down, I will assert that in musicianship and technical ability Manze is the finest violinist living. Period.
In over 20 years of pursuing the ‘ideal’ solo violin recording this would be my choice.
1. “La Sonata del Diavolo” in G minor: [Largo] – 6:40
2. “La Sonata del Diavolo” in G minor: Allegro – 6:09
3. “La Sonata del Diavolo” in G minor: Andante-Allegro-Adagio – 6:24
4. from “L’arte del arco”: Theme and variation I – 1:00
5. from “L’arte del arco”: Variations 2 and 4 – 1:08
6. from “L’arte del arco”: Variations 9, 15 and 12 – 1:28
7. from “L’arte del arco”: Variations 10 and 20 – 1:51
8. from “L’arte del arco”: Variation 29 0:46
9. from “L’arte del arco”: Variation 30 0:37
10. from “L’arte del arco”: Variation 33 – 2:04
11. from “L’arte del arco”: Variation 34 – 1:11
12. from “L’arte del arco”: Variation 23 0:53
13. from “L’arte del arco”: Variation 38 – 1:14
14. Sonata in A minor: Cantabile – 1:56
15. Sonata in A minor: Allegro – 1:56
16. Sonata in A minor: [Andante] – 4:53
17. Sonata in A minor: Giga – 2:35
18. Sonata in A minor: Aria [with variations] – 1:40
19. Sonata in A minor: Variation I – 1:18
20. Sonata in A minor: Variation II – 3:51
21. Sonata in A minor: Variation III – 1:32
22. Sonata in A minor: Variation IV – 2:42
23. Sonata in A minor: Variation V – 1:24
24. “Pastorale” for violin in scordatura: Grave – 5:02
25. “Pastorale” for violin in scordatura: Allegro – 3:30
26. “Pastorale” for violin in scordatura: Largo-Presto-Andante – 4:59
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