Tartini-Piccole Sonate

Posted on October 7th, 2010 by


Violin in close up. Back of W E Hill and Sons 1903

Tartini’s  masterpiece

TO HEAR OUTTAKES FROM THE COMPLETE CYCLE-studio sessions 2011. Go to: 30 DAYS OF TARTINI

 In the last years his life, the great composer, violinist and swordsman, Giuseppe Tartini (1692–1770), seems to have laboured at a set of ca. 30 sonatas for solo violin. The resulting manuscript is the most significant cycle of works for violin alone after Bach, a wonderfully evocative sequence of pieces laced with quotes from Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Liberated. Tartini was in the vanguard of the late 18th century revival of this renaissance poet, who had spent his student years in Padua, the city where these sonatas were written. In the manuscript of Tartini’s sonatas, these quotes are written in a substitution alphabet of Tartini’s own invention. He sent a copy of the manuscript to its dedicatee, Fredrick the Great’s Chamberlain, the philosopher Graf von Algarotti.

 
Sonata in A minor Adagio Track01
Outtake of recording session 6-6-10 (Hence banter at the beginning of take)
Violin-PSS
Engineer-Jonathan Haskell (Astounding Sounds)
Venue- St Marys Aldbury
 
This was an unprecedented event-the whole cycle, presented as a progress across the year, in one of the most extraordinary interiors, the dark splendour of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield.
 
‘St Barts’ is not only an architectural gem, but is gifted with an unusually clear acoustic. Here is an extract from a Bach performance I gave there recently: Bach B minor 2  
  

In addition there is the hazard of proper execution: for it is impossible for another man (whoever he may be) to match my character and expression perfectly, just as it is impossible for another to perfectly resemble me. All the same, in all order to make my character and my intentions clear, I should say that I seek the greatest possible affinity with nature and am least at home in matters of art: for if I possess any art at all, it is that of imitating nature.

Tartini to Algarotti. Nov 20 1749

 
 As each concert happened, extracts from the various pieces, taken live (very) in the concert were posted on each programme.  Click on  the RED links below!
   

   

Inspired by architecture. PSS in action at St Bartholomews. Photo: Richard Bram

Concert 1 (19th May) 730pm

Tartini-Sonatas (Padua Manuscript)

  1. Sonata in G major St Barts 1-Live Extract
  2. Sonata in D minorSt Barts 1 (2) -Live Extract
  3. Sonata in D major
  4. Sonata in C majorSt Barts 1 (5)
  5. Sonata in F major        ‘Al tormento di questo core la crudele si rendera’Tartini F major

Judith Bingham                                    The Lost Works of Paganini 1 More info: St Barts Bingham Extract link

Jim Aitchison                                       Shibboleth after Doris Salcedo More info: link 

 

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber                 Passacaglia (Mystery Sonata XVI) Der Schutzengel als Begleiter des Menschen”  Biber extract 

Tartini 'il sistema sestuplo armonico nell e note musicali a confronto del sistema delle dissonanze' (1754)

Concert 2 (2nd June) 730pm

Tartini-Sonatas (Padua Manuscript)

  1. Sonata in E minor       ‘Senti la fonte, senti lo mare’   Live extract: Barts 2
  2. Sonata in A minor
  3. Sonata in G minor Live extract: Barts 2 (5)
  4. Sonata in A major Live extract:Barts 2 (6)
  5. Sonata in B flat major Live extract:Barts 2 (8)

Plus:

Judith Bingham                                    The Lost Works of Paganini 2 Barts 2 (4)

Laurie Bamon                                      Here lies the Memory  Here lies the memory& The Wind Live extract: Barts 2 (7)

Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692)  Partite sopra diverse Sonate  Live Extract: Vitali (Bitaud/Amati Copy)

Tartini 'la necessita del calculo contramonico' (1754)

Concert 3 (16th June) 730pm

For more information, go to: http://www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com/viotti-and-tartini-st-bartholomews-3/

Tartini-Sonatas (Padua Manuscript)

  1. Sonata in E major        Il vento Mai barts 3 (1)
  2. Sonata in G major       Aria del Tasso
  3. Sonata in D major
  4. Sonatas  in G major (14 and 15)      Se senti spirarti sul volto lieve fiato che lento s’aggiri/di son questi gli alterni sospiri del mio fido che muore per me.

 

Plus:

Judith Bingham                                    The Lost Works of Paganini 3

David Matthews                                  Duos & 3 Chants (With Marius Skaerved)

Giovanni Battista Viotti                      Suonata ‘Duo for one violin without accompaniment’

Marius Skaerved with David Matthews after performing some of his duos in Kusaamo, Finland. Summer 2009

Tartini ‘un Cilindro sonoo, per esempio un timpano, o tamburo’ (1754)

 

 

 Concert 4 (21st September) 730pm

Tartini-Sonatas (Padua Manuscript)

  1. Sonata in C  major Tartini 16
  2. Sonata in D major  di se senti Tartini 17
  3. Sonata in C major  Amatissimo Tartini 18
  4. Sonata in D major lascia ch’io dica addio’ Tartini 19
  5. Sonata in F major ombra cara che qui d’intorno’ Tartini 20

Plus:

Judith Bingham                                    The Lost Works of Paganini 4  l’Usignolo

Michael Hersch                                   In the Snowy Margins

Pietro Locatelli                                      Caprices, including ‘Il Laberinto armonico…’

Concert 5 (27th October) 730pm

Tartini-Sonatas (Padua Manuscript)

  1. Sonata in F major 01 Track 1
  2. Sonata in A minor tra l’orror della tempesta 03 Track 3
  3. Sonata in E majortartini Sonata 23 (extract)
  4. Sonata in D major tartini Sonata 24 (extract)
  5. Sonata in D minor09 Track 9

Plus:

Judith Bingham                                    The Lost Works of Paganini 5 06 Track 6

Poul Ruders                                         Summer’s Prelude & Winter’s Fugue

Westhoff                                                08 Track 80 4 Track 4                                   

   
   
 
 Concert 6 (24th November) 730pm

Tartini-Sonatas (Padua Manuscript)

  1. Sonata in B flat major
  2. Sonata in E major
  3. Sonata in A minor
  4. Sonata in D minor
  5. Sonata in G major

Plus:

Elizabeth Winters                                Image Unfolding (World Premiere)

Haflidi Hallgrimsson                           Offerto

Niccolo Paganini                                 Capricci ‘Adieu a Londres’, & Op 1 Nos 6, 20, 23

 

Elisabeth Winters writes: Whilst thinking about, and sketching, very preliminary ideas for Image Unfolding
(at that time, untitled!), I happened to read a paper by composer Julian
Anderson on the music of Tristan Murail.  This discussed, amongst other things,
the way Murail uses sum and difference tones to generate the musical material in
his piece, Ethers.  As I had just read that Tartini (or so it is said)
‘discovered’ sum and distance tones, this led to the creation of a piece that
owes something to both composers, drawn together by this connection.
I have only incorporated ‘borrowed’ material into a piece once before – however,
the temptation to use some material from the Tartini sonatas was strong.  With
thirty sonatas to choose from there was a lot of thinking to do before I settled
on fragments from the third movement of Sonata no. 10.  Analysis of the movement
provided me with five distinct fragments – each with their own characteristics.
These fragments are gradually unfolded from the material over the course of the
piece, in the same way that one might stretch out a piece of plasticine to
reveal a pattern, or words.  Linking back to Murail again, I am fascinated by
the way that he uses material.  For example, he compresses material to make a
single gesture, but equally magnifies material, drawing out the properties of
the sounds so they become part of the music itself.  The compression and
magnification of material, and the subsequent gradual drawing out of the Tartini
fragments is, at the moment, forming the basis for my piece.
A further Tartini influence is his statement ‘to play well, it is necessary to
sing well’. Even during complex passages I am trying to let the natural sound of
the violin through – involving use of open strings – in particular the notes
central to my piece, G and A.

 

Violin by Lorraine Bitaud, after Andrea Amati (ca. 1564-7). Lorraine was born in France in 1986. Coming, from a family of woodworkers and musicians, she soon developed a strong feeling for both music and wood. She started playing clarinet at 6 but it when she was 13 years old that she realized that that she wanted to become a Violinmaker. In 2006, she entered the world-famous renowned Newark School of Violin Making, from which she will graduate this year. During her studies, she felt in love with two special fields of the violin making world: 1. The restoration of old instrument (to which she dedicates most of her time) 2. And, since she listened to Biber’s passacaglia for solo violin played in concert on a period violin, baroque instruments (which she started making soon afterward). The violin that Peter Sheppard Skærved will play is based on Andrea .Amati’s violins, in the aim to not only have a baroque instrument in the setting up but also a “baroque” aesthetic: a refined and delicate violin but full of character. This instrument will be used to play the works by Giovanni Battista Vitali and Heinrich Ignaz Biber in these concerts.

One of the greatest of Italian violinists, Guiseppe Tartini, dreamt that one night the devil, Il Diabolo, was perched on the end of his bed, like Fuseli’s incubus, and Schumann’s tormentors. Of course, Fuseli had deliberately invoked his demon; ‘The Nightmare’, painted in 1782, is the documentation of a vision which the artist experienced after  eating raw pork chops for his supper, but it changed the way the western world thought about going to sleep, much in the same way that the shower was ruined for generations of women after the release of ‘Psycho’ in 1960. Tartini’s  fiend was playing a difficult work for violin, full of technical effects and tricks which had never been heard before. As soon as he woke, Tartini reached for his pen and paper without bothering to dress, and wrote down exactly what he heard. It would be very easy to dismiss his story as a publicity stunt. But Tartini had actually spent two years trying to avoid public notice. He was born in Istria, in the seaside town of Pirano, then under the rule of la Serenissima. Pirano is now Piran, on the Slovenian-Croatian border. Tartini is celebrated on the main square of this town, ‘Tartnijev Trg’. A brilliant swordsman, he had killed a man in a duel, and in 1709 actually considered opening a fencing school in order to underwrite his playing career; he was later forced to hide icognito in the monastery of the Friars Minor Conventual in Asissi, having incurred the wrath of Cardinal Giorgio Cornaro, for marrying Elizabetta Premazora. Until it was safe for him to leave, visitors would come to hear the anonymous genius, who played the violin behind a curtain. It  was whilst in hiding at the monastery that he had his encounter with Old Nick, perhaps inspired by the religious ambience around him. He wrote:“I was enraptured, transported, enchanted; my breath failed me. I woke and tried to reproduce the sounds  that I had heard. But in vain. The ‘Devil’s Sonata’, although the best that I ever wrote, is far inferior to the one that I heard in my dream.” (E.van der Straeten, in History if the Violin vol. 1 (reprint, New York: Da Capo, 1968), p151.) Interestingly, ‘Il Trillo di Diabolo’ is nothing like anything else that the Mantuan genius wrote before or after. Perhaps he really had no idea where this inspiration had come from.

‘Subito Affetuoso’ A personal mis-reading of Giussepe Tartini’s Sonate Piccole.

It is a noble thing to observe decorum in adversity, and to be not only intrepid but constant in meeting the blow of fortune’: Tasso 1594 (Discorsi del Poemi Eroica. Quoted in-The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance, John Hale, Fontana Press, London, 1993, P.209)

For the past few months, I have had Tartini much on my mind.

The present author, however, is not ashamed to show himself as he is, rough and uncultured; indeed, it works to his advantage, as he is both pleased and anxious that the naked truth be seen. On the other hand, he is sorry if he appears arrogant when, in order to contradict them; he names and refers to those of whom he is unworthy of being either a disciple or a servant.’ (P.148, Fro On the principles of Musical Harmony contained in the Diatonic Genus, 1767)

In February 1750 Giuseppe Tartini sent 26 Piccole Sonate a Violino solo to the Court Chamberlain of King Frederick the Great, the philosopher Count Algarotti (1712 – 1764). 

“Another reason for the present decadence of music is the peculiar dominion it has taken upon itself to found, and which today has reached such a height. The composer behaves like a despot, doing exactly as he likes, concerned solely with musical matters. There is no way in the world to make him understand that his role has to be subordinate, and that music produces its best effects when it ministers to poetry. Its proper function is to subordinate the mind to receive the impressions made by the verses, and so to stir the emotions that analogous to the precise ideas that the poet is to elicit, in a word, to give the language of the Muses greater vigour and energy.” (Francesco Algarotti, Essay on Opera, 1755)

The Sonatas are variously scored for violin alone and violino e violoncello o cembalo.  However, Tartini himself noted in the accompanying letter to the Sonatas, the cello part was there as a formality:

           “I have played these without bassetto, and that is my true intention.” (Letter to Count Francesco Algarotti, Giuseppe Tartini, 24th February, 1750, Padua, Autograph Letter, Biblioteca civica, Bassano)

 Tartini’s fascination with the resultant tones of two lines played in double stops led to the burgeoning notion of the violin as sufficient unto itself.  Naturally, this manner of writing stood at a sharp angle to Bach’s solo works, but certainly had a greater impact on the following generation Indeed, Baillot specifically recommends it in L’Art du Violon, suggesting that the effect of the resultant tones can be enhanced through the agent of “a key of about 4 à 5 pouces (ca. 11-13 cm)” on the belly of the violin. (L’Art du Violon, Pierre Baillot ((1834), Published 1835), Ed.   and Transl.   by Louise Goldberg, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1991, P.405)

The amateur, Charles Burney sought out Tartini’s legacy all over Italy:

 ‘The day before my departure from Padua, I visited Signor Tromba, Tartini’s scholar and successor. He was so obliging as to play several of his masters’ solos, particularly two which he had made just before his death, of which I begged a copy, regarding these last drops of this pen as sacred relics of so great and original a genius.’ (The present state of music in France and Italy, Charles Burney, T.Becket and Co, 1771, P.137)

I find myself feeling a little like Charles Burney-seeking out this composer, this violinist, this philosopher, this ideal.  This is a little surprising, but I suppose Burney and I share one thing, a sense that there is almost nothing more important than being a servant of art, of communicating the wonder that we feel at the marvels created by others.

But Tartini’s cycle of sonatas in the ‘Padua Manuscript’ leaves me speechless. Like Burney, I am bewildered as how best to communicate the astonishing message of what seem to me ‘the last drops’ of this ‘great and orginal genius’.

 “The celebrated Tartini never composed a sonata that did not express some composition by Petrach, nor did he ever lose sight of his intended subject. These sonatas, however, although rich in meaning, are only half alive, as they lack the expression of song, which is the very soul of music.” (Francesco Milizia, Complete and formal treatise on the Theatre, 1794, Ibid. 255)

The penultimate movement of the Sonata 10 of this cycle of works, which have come to be known, for some reason, as Piccole, has the extraordinary inscription:

  ‘Subito Affetuoso’ (Sonata X, Sonate Piccole, Tartini, Padua MS )

It struck me, appropriately enough, suddenly, that this seemed to refer to the appearance of love in the work which lies behind the cycle, Torquato Tasso’s epic ‘Gerusaleme Liberata’, and most particularly, the truly Arthurian moment in the first book, when the hapless Tancredi first catches sight of the warrior Clorinda, who later, he will kill. This tragedy, of course, is itself informed by many typologies, not least the tale of Achilles and Penthelisea in the Iliad. Perhaps this could be the reason for Tartini’s bizarre indication-a sudden realisation of emotion. As a performer, and by performer, I mean proud mountebank, it struck me that ‘perhaps’ is plenty good enough for me.

 ‘Victorious Tancred, eager to pursue

The scatter’d remnants of the flying crew,

O’erspent with labour, sought some kind retreat,

To quench his Thirst, and cool his burning heat;

When to his wish, a crystal stream he found,

With bowery shade and verdant herbage crown’d:

There sudden rush’s before his wondering sight,              [360]

A Pagan damsel sheath’d in armour bright:

Her helm unlac’d her visage bare display’d.

And tir’d with fight, she sought the cooling shade.

Struck with her looks, he view’d the beauteous dame,

Admir’d her charms and kindled at the flame.

O wondrous force of love’s resistless dart,

That pierced at once, and rooted in his heart!

Her helm she clos’d, prepar’d t’assault the knight,

But numbers, drawing nigh, constrain’d her flight;

The lofty virgin fled, but left behind                                 [370]

Her lovely form deep imag’d in his mind;

Still in his thought, he views the conscious grove,

Eternal fuel of the flames of love!’

(Gerusaleme Liberata, Torquato Tasso, Trans. Hoole, Book 1, P.21)

It has not escaped me that my main interest in Tartini and Tasso is a personal one, linked to my obsession with musical cycles and their reflection in literature-epic poetry. I cannot approach the Tartini’s Sonatas without the sense that they are a cycle. If they are, and are related to the Tasso, then this cycle should also reflect the other works that Tartini would have known, such as: Colonna-Hypnertomachia Poliphiliae, Dante-Divine Comedy, Ariosto-Orlando Furioso, Boyardo-Orlando Inamorato, and Tasso-Rinaldo. Perhaps, even more important that this, that the cycle should be considered in the context of the response to Tasso from Tartini’s 18th century contemporaries. The youngest of these, was of course, Goethe, who wrote a whole play on the subject Torquato Tasso.  At one point in his play the ‘Princess’ warns ‘Tasso’ to beware of solitude. This seems to reflect something of the dangerous allure which Tartini, and I, have found in Tasso.

 ’The  spirit strives for-

“Die Goldene Zeit, die ihm von aussen mangelt,

the Golden Age, which so lacking outside

In seinem Innern wieder herzustellen,

In his inner being once more there to build

So wenig der Versuch gelingen will.”

However little success it will have in the attempt

(Torquato Tasso-Goethe Quoted in Goethe, the poet and the age, Vol 1, Nicholas Boyle, OUP, 1991, 608) 

 So what am I driving at? Looking around at the remarks about this composer, the most common points, once we put discussion of the ‘Devil’s Trill’ to one side, is that somehow, Tartini is a bridge between the baroque and classical periods. It seems that his is problematic, and can impede an understanding of his music. Trying to hold him up as the pontiff between two periods obscures the possibility that his mature works embody something more than a transition between two forms of classicism, perhaps, a latent Romanticism. Just because he was old does not exclude him from contributing to the impulse that led Horace Walpole to design Strawberry Hill (1748), or Goethe’s Werther (1774). These, along with Blake and Fuseli, were all ‘looking at the moon’, struck by sudden moments of subito affetuoso, whispering ‘Klopstock’. This was the generation who re-animated the voice of Torquato Tasso, who saw something particular in his Keats-ian moments of sentimental Verklarung, in battle, in the religion, among the ruins.

  “I have,” he said to me, “been asked to work for theatres in Venice, and I have never wanted to, knowing full well that a throat is not the same of the neck of a violin. Vivaldi, who tried to compose in both genres, was always booed in one, while he was very successful in the other.” Charles De Brosses, Lettres Familières, (letter to M. de Maleteste) 1739-40, Ibid. P. 206

Giuseppe Tartini died in 1770, his companion and student Nardini at his side. It does not seems as if his impact or productiveness had ebbed with age; certainly the lengths to which musical explorers such as Burney went in the following few years to seek out his legacy, strikes me that his was not an anachronistic voice.

 Per ben suonare, bisogna ben cantare (Tartini’s motto)

Perhaps it was Giovanni Battista Viotti, though, who awoke me to the notion of the great Istrian as an ideal. This is not how he is often seen by today’s musicians, whose opinion is, to a large degree, shaped by his most atypical work, the G minor Sonata il Trillo del Diabolo, and by and large, rather dull recordings of his concerti. These sit rather at odds with the notion of per ben suonare, bisogna ben cantare, the mantra seized upon by Viotti and his teacher, Gaetano Pugnani.

A recent concert focusing on the G minor Sonata Didone Abandonata , took me back to my teens, and a realisation that this music, which had once seen so everyday to me, was something quite extraordinary, a moment-to-moment experience of emotion, sound, and philosophy the like of which I had not experienced before.

 “All this purely instrumental music, without design, without purpose, speaks neither to the mind nor to the soul: one might as well ask…. Sonata, what do you wish of me? The composers of instrumental music will make nothing but an empty noise as long as they do not have in their heads, like the celebrated Tartini, as they say, an action or an expression to be represented. Some Sonatas, but rather as small number, have this quality, so desirable, and so necessary to commend them to persons of taste. Let us take one entitled Didone Abbandonata. It is a charming monologue; Sorrow, Hope and Despair appear in rapid succession, and very distinctly, in varying degrees and in different nuances; and one could easily make a very lively and very touching scene of this sonata. But such pieces are rare.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, De la liberté de la musique, (Amsterdam, 1759), Section XXXVIII)

But to be practical, what material do we have. In terms of publication, all that there is the two volume edition of 26 Piccole Sonate, in two volumes, by Editio Suivini Zerboni. Then there is a very uninformative edition of one of these works, in D major, by Schott Mainz. Predating both of these is the publication of Luigi Dallapiccola’s Tartiniana Secunda, for violin and orchestra, or violin and piano, which culls material, with merely cosmetic changes, directly from four of the Sonate Piccole. As far as I can tell, Dallapiccola’s transformation of these movements marks the first publication of any of this material. And that is it. There is no critical edition of this work, a situation no doubt arising from the perception that Tartini is not a ‘first rate composer’. The transformative experience of working on this music persuades me that this is an inappropriate view.

The great Tartini scholar, Paul Brainard, last published material on these pieces in 1961. He responded with barely concealed scorn to Giovanni Guglielmo’s Edition 1970 edition for Zerboni. At that point, with exception of David Bowman’s critique of the bizarre Schott Mainz edition of the D major Sonata 17, all informed commentary on these works ceased. There was a moment of doubt. Perhaps the pieces weren’t any good. At that moment, Dallapiccola stepped in. His Tartiniana Secunda is, in fact the first printed edition of any of this music. Listening to his own performance of the first movement convinced me to go on. If he could produce an omaggio of such delicacy and beauty, simply by framing, echoing and garlanding Tartini’s enlightened restraint, then clearly there was something there.

From all of this, one might surmise that the sources for this work are problematic. But they are not. The ‘Padua Manuscript’ containing all the works and some, is very legible. In fact, it might be argued that its only problem is that it offers too much material.

A cursory glance at the MS flags up another problem. At first glance, it appears that there are 26 sonatas. However, the Sonata numbered 26 on the MS is actually the 27th in sequence. The Zerboni edition avoids this anomally by ignoring the last sonata in the sequence altogether, hoping it seemed, that no one would notice. The problems do not end there, as that sonata finishes on Page 88 of the MS-there are 18 more pages, not of notes, but finished works, that follow, in addition to numerous extra movements, and apparently, vocal material, scattered across the whole sequence of pages.

Why would one composer spend so much time fretting over one work? Perhaps this is the wrong question. We have very little trouble with the notion that Marcel Proust would devote a lifetime to en Recherche d’un Temps perdu; this is what we come to expect from writers. But let’s state the obvious. Devoting a considerable amount of time to one art work has come to presuppose a notion of autobiography. In today’s world, it is almost a given, that, in order to spend such a lot of time thinking about something, the very act of thought, of living with the material such a long time, will make it about oneself.

But let’s take a moment. The most epic work of Italian autobiography, The Divine Comedy, is not about Dante at all. Or if it is, it is about a part of him, which, one might argue, was of precious little use to him on earth, his soul. If we complicate this further, looking as far in the opposite direction from Dante as possible, composing a large piece of art about oneself, and apparently with no intention of public manifestation, in our time, at least, smacks of ‘outsider’ art.

Pehaps I would not be agonising about this were it not for the brooding Torquato Tasso, whose magnum opus, the Gerusaleme Liberata is a puzzling, and yet looming presence, behind Tartini’s set of 30(-odd) Sonate.

Jerusalem is, on first encounter, just as devotional and religious a work as Dante’s. At worst, it can be seen as, a breathtakingly jaundiced piece of anti-Ottoman propaganda, a grotesque propagandising caricature of Islamic culture, rendering the  First Crusades as the ‘War in Heaven’ revenant. Such an impression is only enhanced by the slightly queasy experience of reading the first English translation, published at the end of the 18th century. Hoole, the poet-translator behind this work, is so unashamedly a Miltonist, that the time-frame of the Jerusalem, year 5000 of the fall, and Hoole’s choice of language, comes close to giving one the impression that Milton prefigured Tasso, that Jerusalem work is the natural successor to Paradise Regained.

But, on reading this blood-soaked epic, certain features spring up, anomalies that perhaps have no place in a religious tract (which is what Jerusalem  sets out to be). The most potent of these is love; romantically hopeless love, obsession and loss, first apparent when Tancredi catches a glimpse of the warrior Clorinda.

I have to remind myself that I too am reading this through the somewhat mysterious filter of Tartini, as the whole time, the quote inscribed on his manuscript ‘The Torment of this Heart’, nags at me.

 “The obligation of those who long for knowledge is to examine whether the author has told the truth, and when he has, both the author and he who loves knowledge must adjust to the truth, whether it be by nature easy or difficult.”(Tartini: On the principles of Musical Harmony contained in the Diatonic Genus 1767)

It seems as if the only way to begin to unpick this puzzle, and, perhaps most importantly, to unpick it in a way that might be meaningful for my purposes, is to in some way, ‘take the course’. Now some home truths have to be borne.

The bourn to any artist’s involvement in their subject, their character, is time. Classical musicians are today in a compromised situation, because they are quick-change artists. This situation, almost unique in the performing arts, not only holds true within the time-limited situation of concert, but perhaps more importantly, within the confines of the artist’s life. There is no way that I am going to play an Eco-esque one-to-one mapping game, so I have to acknowledge that I need to set limits. So here are my limits: I would like to get better acquainted with the concerns of Giuseppe Tartini in such a way that these illuminate, animate or even obscure, the cycle of solo sonatas that occupied him in the last years of his life.

“…I make

A future temple of my present cell,

Which nations yet shall visit for my sake.

While though, Ferrara, when no longer dwell

The ducal chiefs within thee, shalt fall down,

And crumbling piecemeal view thy heartless halls-

A poet’s wreath shall be thine only crown,

A poet’s dungeon thy most far renown.’ Bryon, ‘The Lament of Tasso’ 1817

 

Tartini and the disciples of Viotti

The original Méthode described the ideal which the Italian school represented for Kreutzer, Rode and Baillot:

 “…the first tone, like the first glance, casts the spell and makes and impression so deep it is never forgotten.  We remember the tone that Tartini and Pugnani drew from their violins well enough to distinguish them and to keep in mind the type of expression that characterised their playing…Let those who desire a beautiful quality of tone prepare for it by the technical means we have indicated.  But let them not seek elsewhere than in their own feelings, which they must draw out from their soul, for it is there that they will find its source.” (L’Art du Violon, Pierre Baillot ((1834), Published 1835), Ed.   and Transl.   by Louise Goldberg, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1991, P. 476)

 

Giuseppe Tartini was the ideal from which much of Viotti’s approach to the violin sprang. Tartini’s Arte del’Arco was written as a letter to a Mme. Sirmen. Though not originally intended for publication, this tract was perhaps the greatest single influence on the ‘revolutionary’ approach to the right hand innovated by Viotti and his followers.  Pierre Baillot carefully articulated the limitations of this work for the modern player, noting that it:

 “…is filled with details which contribute more to variety of expression than to variety of bowing, with regard to what is understood today as ‘feeling’.  It leaves everything to be guessed at by the student, since no sign, no marked accent, appears to help him or her, render either the sense of the music or very often event the notes.”   

 

Tartini’s ‘variety of bowing’ was the quality which the Méthode sought most energetically to communicate.  The last set of exercises in the Méthode aims specifically at developing this skill in the violinist. These are prefaced with the following:

 “One cannot only speak of sustained and detached notes as separate from each other, but whilst it is indispensable to make joins between notes, if one wishes to sing on the instrument, there are certain characters which might acquire, through the use of a variety of bow-strokes, expression and character, which they might hardly have without this resource, which must not be abused, so long as it is not to fatigue the ear, or harm the true expression which always knows how to husband its effects.” Méthode de Violon, par Mmrs.   Baillot, Rode et Kreutzer, Membres du Conservatoire de Musique, Rédigée par Baillot.   Adoptée par le Conservatoire pour server à l’étude dans cet établissement, Le Roy, Paris, 1805, P. 152) 

Baillot, frustrated by the difficulty of communicating the beauty of Tartini’s music to audiences, remarked in 1798:

 “I had made up my mind to risk it, in spite of those servants of bad taste, who never want to hear what is beautiful, because the idea of beauty is not accredited by fashion.” (Baillot to Montbeillard on Tartini 1798, Quoted in Viotti and the ChinnerysA relationship charted through letters, Denise, Ashgate, London P.24)

In his youth, Baillot had studied with the somewhat obscure violinist Pollani, a disciple of Pietro Nardini (1722 – 1793). He cited Nardini’s Sonate Enigmatique in L’Art du Violon.   Nardini’s own maxim, a refinement of Tartini’s dictum, was “Bisogna spianarare l’arco”. This imprecation to ‘spin’ with the bow anticipated Baillot’s poetic remark about Viotti, that he was a ‘Hercules with a bow of Cotton’.

Tartini’s dictum, per ben suonare, bisogna ben cantare, can be applied to everything that Viotti brought to the French school, his revolution of the bow, his move away from the chattering ornamentation and short-breathed brilliance of the violinistic descendants of Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764).  Suddenly a new union was born, between the violin and the voice, and as the sound of the castrati began to fade in the memory, the violin virtuosi stepped forward from the coulisses and conquered all with the qualities of their long single notes just as the castrati had.  They no longer simply dazzled with high wire virtuosity, they sang.

With Viotti’s adherence to Tartini’s maxim, per ben suonare, bisogna ben cantare, it is no mystery why the post-revolutionary generation of violinists came to idolise singers.

Pierre La Houssaye, professor at the Paris Conservatoire from 1796 until 1796, spoke eloquently of the impression that Tartini made on him. As a young artist, he had travelled to Padua to listen to Tartini give his regular church performances, and to seek his counsel. ( Les Instruments à Archet, Les Feseurs, Les Joueurs d’Instruments, Leur Histoire sur le Continent Européen, Suivi d’un Catalogue Général de la Musique de Chambre, Antoine Vidal, (1876 – 78) Translated P.S.S 2007, Holland Press, London, 1962  Vl II P. 296)

La Houssaye’s words encapsulate the elements which became fundamental to the post-revolutionary French violin school, of which Tartini was the unwitting progenitor:

 “It is impossible for me to express the astonishment and admiration which the purity and fine quality of his tone, the rare beauty of his expression, the magic of his bowing – in a word, the very completeness of this artistic capabilities – aroused in me.” (Celebrated Violinists, Past and Present, A.   Ehrlich (Translated R Legge), the Strad Library, London 1906 P.156)

The original Méthode described the ideal which the Italian school represented for Kreutzer, Rode and Baillot;

 “…the first tone, like the first glance, casts the spell and makes and impression so deep it is never forgotten.  We remember the tone that Tartini and Pugnani drew from their violins well enough to distinguish them and to keep in mind the type of expression that characterised their playing…Let those who desire a beautiful quality of tone prepare for it by the technical means we have indicated.  But let them not seek elsewhere than in their own feelings, which they must draw out from their soul, for it is there that they will find its source.” (L’Art du Violon, Pierre Baillot ((1834), Published 1835), Ed.   and Transl.   by Louise Goldberg, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1991, P. 476)  

Tartini’s ‘variety of bowing’ was the quality which the Méthode sought most energetically to communicate.  The last set of exercises in the Méthode aims specifically at developing this skill in the violinist. These are prefaced with the following:

 “One cannot only speak of sustained and detached notes as separate from each other, but whilst it is indispensable to make joins between notes, if one wishes to sing on the instrument, there are certain characters which might acquire, through the use of a variety of bow-strokes, expression and character, which they might hardly have without this resource, which must not be abused, so long as it is not to fatigue the ear, or harm the true expression which always knows how to husband its effects.” (Méthode de Violon, par Mmrs.   Baillot, Rode et Kreutzer, Membres du Conservatoire de Musique, Rédigée par Baillot.   Adoptée par le Conservatoire pour server à l’étude dans cet établissement, Le Roy, Paris, 1805, P. 152)

Much of Tartini’s tonal innovation would lead inexorably to the demand that the actual construction and resources of the violin itself be enhanced, even if Tartini himself was not involved in this process.


 

 

 

Composer Judith Bingham. Genoa 2007. Photo Richard Bram

Violin by Lorraine Bitaud, after Andrea Amati (ca. 1564-7). Lorraine was born in France in 1986. Coming, from a family of woodworkers and musicians, she soon developed a strong feeling for both music and wood. She started playing clarinet at 6 but it when she was 13 years old that she realized that that she wanted to become a Violinmaker. In 2006, she entered the world-famous renowned Newark School of Violin Making, from which she will graduate this year. During her studies, she felt in love with two special fields of the violin making world: 1. The restoration of old instrument (to which she dedicates most of her time) 2. And, since she listened to Biber’s passacaglia for solo violin played in concert on a period violin, baroque instruments (which she started making soon afterward). The violin that Peter Sheppard Skærved will play is based on Andrea .Amati’s violins, in the aim to not only have a baroque instrument in the setting up but also a “baroque” aesthetic: a refined and delicate violin but full of character. This instrument will be used to play the works by Giovanni Battista Vitali and Heinrich Ignaz Biber in these concerts.

Shibboleth laid out on the floor of St Barts. 19-5-10

St Bartholomew-the-Great West Smithfield

Concert 4 ( 21st September) 730pm

All concerts start at 730pm. (Admission £10/Concesssions £5)

 Giuseppe Tartini

30 Tasso Sonatas

 Peter Sheppard Skærved – Violin 

Autumn Series

Admission: £12. (£6 concessions)

Violin in close up. Back of W E Hill and Sons 1900

Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great West Smithfield 

Tartini 'archi delli oscillazione sono' (1754)

From Tartini's 'Trattao di Musica seconda la vera scienza dell'Armonia' (Padua 1754)

Giuseppe Tartini Sonate Piccole (complete)

St Bartholomew-the-Great

West Smithfield

May-November 2010 All concerts start at 730pm.

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