Ether Game

The Devil’s Trill, Resurrected

Here’s a hint: It’s a work that was way ahead of its time.

Giuseppe Tartini was one of the Baroque era’s greatest musical figures. Not only was he a prolific composer, but he was also one of the era’s greatest performers and teachers of the violin.

Out of his vast output of works during his lifetime, the work that solidified Tartini’s name in musical history was his Sonata in g minor for solo violin and figured bass accompaniment.

The story behind this piece starts with a dream. Legend says Tartini dreamed that the Devil appeared and played the violin 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.

Hence we get the sonata’s famous nickname, The Devil’s Trill. Even by today’s standards, the work is one of the most difficult pieces for the violin.

Themes from this masterwork and many of Tartini’s other pieces prominently find themselves resurrected in the works the 20th century Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola.

Music Heard On This Episode

Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770): Sontata in g minor for violin, “The Devil’s Trill”
Gil Shaham, violin; Jonathan Feldman, piano — Devil's Dance (Deutsche Grammaphon, 2000)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770): Sontata in g minor for violin, “The Devil’s Trill”
Gil Shaham, violin; Jonathan Feldman, piano — Devil's Dance (Deutsche Grammaphon, 2000)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

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