Tartini Concert 2!

Posted on May 29th, 2010 by



St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield

Concert 2 (Wednesday 2nd June) 730pm

Tickets £12 (Concessions £6)

PSS with 'Il Cannone'. Photo: Richard Bram


Information on the whole series: https://www.sheppardskaerved.com/tartini-sonatas-at-st-barts/

Tartini-Sonatas (Padua Manuscript) 

  1. Sonata in E minor       ‘Senti la fonte, senti lo mare’
  2. Sonata in A minor
  3. Sonata in G minor
  4. Sonata in A major
  5. Sonata in B flat major


Judith Bingham                                    The Lost Works of Paganini 2 

Laurie Bamon                                      Here lies the Memory & The Wind  Here lies the memory

Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692)  Partite sopra diverse Sonate Vitali (4)

PSS working with Laurie Bamon at St Barts Photo: Morgan Goff

This Wednesday, I will be returning to St Bartholomew the Great to continue my exploration of the Padua Manuscript Solo Sonatas of Tartini. These incredibly delicate works are ideally suited to the exquisite acoustic of ‘St Barts’.  Here is an extract from that first concert:

Listen; Tartini-G Major Sonata (No 1) St Barts 1-Live Extract

I will also be joined by  violist Morgan Goff (my dear friend and colleague from the Kreutzers), with two young colleagues, Preetha Narayanan and Alice Barron, to give the premiere of an extraordinary work by the gifted young composer Laurie Bamon. 

Preetha Narayanan. Photo: Richard Bram

The Wind is scored for solo viola with three violins spread around the hall. This work was developed for the Nashville-London Exchange masterminded by composer Michael Alec Rose this year, this is the first time that it will be heard in public, and it makes a perfect companion piece for Tartini.


I am also playing a second work from Judith Bingham’s The Lost Works of Paganini.

Composer Judith Bingham. Genoa 2007. Photo Richard Bram

This work was inspired by Paganini’s tenure at the Lucca court overseen by Elisa Bacciochi, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister. 

The Scena Amorosa which Paganini described having composed for the Princess, is one of the 24 opere perdute (lost works) listed in the Thematic Catalogue  of his music.

 Paganani left an account in a letter published in the Gazzetta Musicale di Milano (No 42):




“ Seeking variety in the sonatas played at Court, one evening I removed two strings from my violin, and improvised a sonata entitled Scena Amorosa, using the g string for the man (Adonis) and the e-string for the woman (Venus).”

Whether or not the Scena will ever be found, it is worth remembering that like most composers of his day, Paganini was in the habit of recycling material, so it is not unlikely that the material either came from another work, or appeared elsewhere. One of the violin/guitar works that also survives from this period are two pages, one for each part, of a piece entitled Entrata d’Adone nella reggia di Venere(The Entry of Adonis into the palace of Venus). Naturally, the most famous description of this extremely erotic and tragic story is that told by Ovid.

Paganini-Il Segreto (Courtesy Bruck-Wurlitzer)

 Some authorities have suggested that the lost piece was in some way related to Paganini’s Duetto Amoroso MS111 for Violin and Guitar. This  attribution seems to stem solely from the use of the word ‘amoroso’, and not from any clear connection. Paganini was prone to use ‘amoroso’ as an expressive indication  in his music, perhaps more than any other composer; the Capriccio No 21 is a good example. However, the Duetto is interesting, in that each of its ten movements is given a title suggestive of the course of a love affair, the only time that Paganini did this. After an initial introduction, Principio , the titles of these movements stretch from a Preghira , which may well be a prayer to Venus, through Acconsentito, Timidezza, Contentezza, Lite, Pace, Segnali d’amore to a resigned  Notizia della Partenza  and finally Distacco. At the very least, this piece offers an insight into Paganini’s essential pessism, no doubt borne out in his own experience, as to the course to true love. 


  Paganini was probably also aware of Shakespeare’s poem on the theme of  Venus and Adonis. Shakespeare is a somewhat distant figure in his output, but it is fascinating that the piece which Berlioz dedicated to him later in his life, in gratitude for his moral and financial support was his Romeo and Juliet.  This work was the epitome, as Berlioz saw it, of instrumental music’s power to expressive that which cannot be articulated in words, that he “had to give his imagination a latitude that the positive sense of the sung words would not have allowed him, and he had to resort to instrumental language-a language more rich, more varied, less limited, and by its unilateralness incomparably more powerful in such circumstances.” (Boorstin) Sadly Paganini died before he had a chance to see this piece. The string writing of Berlioz’s work shows more evidence of Berlioz’ incorporation of Paganini’s technical innovations thatn almost any other orchestral work to this date. There is extensive use of Paganini’s signature technique,  ‘artificial harmonics’. This was courageous; Berlioz’ memoirs provide plentiful documentation of his tussles with orchestral players over his technical demands, and Berlioz’ mixing of different techniques of natural and artificial techniques are of the type which give orchestral players pause to this day.

 Berlioz’ 1835 manifesto on the subject of expression, might have come from Paganini’s mouth. Hewrote:

” Expression is by no means the sole aim of dramatic music; it would be foolish and pedantic to disdain the purely sensuous pleasure of melody, harmony, rhythm, and instrumentation, independently, of their power to depict the passions.”

I am convinced that the Scène d’amour from this ‘Dramatic Symphony’ Romeo and Juliet is, in part, an homage to Paganini, and that Berlioz may have had in mid the gentle pastoral of the Capriccio No 20  when he wrote it. The music which associated with the farewell at the end of the ‘balcony scene’ is extraordinarily reminisicent of this work. It would be charming to imagine that Berlioz came to imagine this as being his heartfelt farewell to his old friend and supporter.

 “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow

That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

 Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis  was heavily based on Thomas Lodge and Edmund Spencers’ accounts of the myth. Spenser describes Venus’s welcome for her boy lover:

‘Then with what sleights and sweet allurements she

           Entyst the Bow, as well that art she knew,

            And wooed him her Parmoure to be;

            Now making girlonds of each flower that grew,

            To crowne his golden lockes with honour dew;

            New leading him into a secret shade

            From his Beauperes, and from bright heavens vew,

            Where him to sleepe she gently would perswade,

Or bathe him in a fountaine by some covert glade.


And whilst he slept, she over him would spred

            Her mantle, colour’d like the starry skies,

            And her soft arme lay underneath his hed,

            And with ambrosiall kisses bathe his eyeres;

            And whilest he bath’d , with her two crafty eyes;

            And whilest he bath’d, with her two crafty spyes,

            She secretly would search each daintie lim,

            And throw into the well sweet Rosemaryes’

            And fragrant violets, and Pances trim,

And ever with sweet Nectar she did sprinkle him.’

(Spencer –Faerie Queen III, I, 35-36)


Paganini’s fourth set of six sonatas for guitar and violin is dedicated to a mysterious Madama T. Without getting bogged down in the rumours as to whom this individual might have been, the extremely suggestive title of the Entrata  and the possibility that this might be related to the Scena Amorosa in the context of a cycle of duos dedicated to an anonymous woman leads one to wonder. 

In 2005, the missing Scena Amorosa inspired a new  work,  the beginning of a new cycle of works. Judith Bingham decided to make good the missing piece, composing her own Scena Amorosa, entitled We Two. Like the missing Paganini, this work is played on only the E and G strings.

It was written to be played, appropriately enough, at the wedding of another composer, David Matthews, to Jenifer Wakelyn, where I played it using Vuillaume’s steel bow. David Matthews is the most recent composer to write a new cadenza for Paganini concerto, No 2 in B minor, La Campenella.

Paganini’s description of his work in Lucca continues (Prodhomme):

 “One day at noon, the  court requested a concerto for violin and English horn that evening. The music director refused on the grounds that there was not sufficient time, whereupon, I was asked to write it. In two hours I composed an orchestral accompaniment and that evening performed it with Professor Gatti, making a great hit.” [AMZ May 1830 No 20 Pp 324]

 Paganini also reported performing ‘an entire opera at Lucca with a violin mounted with two strings, winning a wager involving a luncheon for 25 people.’! 

In the back of the the Thamatic Catalogue, the scena amorosa  is listed as opera perduta , a ‘ lost work.’ When Judith Bingham came up with the idea of writing her own scena , We Two , she had no idea that the work that she was imagining was missing. I was and am, incredibly excited at thes serendipity, that a living composer would write a work to fill a gap in the catalogue of a predecessor, just following their instinct. This encourages the kind of faith the preservation of the human spirit through Art that Louis Krasner always spoke of.

 Louis Krasner made it crystal clear to me that music’s ability to transcend the limitations or time, was not a matter of belief but fact.  He was talking about the Chorale Ass ist genug , not by, but arranged by Bach, which came into Alban Berg’s hands late in the process of writing his Violin Concerto, which Krasner  commissioned.

In Krasner’s eyes, it was  irrelevant which piece had come first, the Bach, or the Berg; in his way of seeing it, they had both come into being at the same ‘time’, in communion with each other.

“Bach wrote [this chorale] so that Berg could find, and Berg wrote his concerto so that Bach could write his  chorale. If you don’t know this, then please leave now.” (Conversation with Peter Sheppard Skaerved Boston 1988)

Of course, plenty of other composers have written works using the idea of the scena amorsa-the most obvious example being Edouard Lalo; the third movement of his Symphonie Espagnole uses exactly these techniques, as does the Questions et Reponses movement from Cesar Cui’s extraordinary cycle for piano and violin, Kaleidoscope. 

Cui-Kaleidoscope (7)

PSS -Violin (Stradivari 1714 Maurin)

Aaron Shorr-Piano

Judith Bingham again:

“ Of  course the idea was that as two people fall in love, they gradually begin to sing the same note, that the  D and A barrier, as my piece preserves these two strings intact, this barrier becomes less and less, until it is not there at all, and the two different voices, the different sexes, are on different strings, playing the same note. From a composer’s point of view, the tremendous attraction of writing in this way for the two strings is the completely different colour that the same note on two different strings has.”

 But Paganini; by being so specific in his choice of text, of Venus and Adonis has raised two extra aspects. One is that Venus fell in love with Adonis at his birth, which is redolent of Jane Austen’s Emma, if reversed! The other is the opposite end of the story, which excited Ovid and Spenser so much, the death of Adonis.

The early 19th century listener would instantly know the story of Venus and Adonis, just as they would know any other standard classical text, particularly in a court salon. This would be been part of their education. This knowledge would automatically elicit in anyone with a generic classical education, the linked tragedy-the  similarly disastrous love story of  Artemis and Actaeon, who of course, ends up being torn to pieces by his own hunting dogs.  Ovid stresses the two voices, crying to each other, and then ends with Adonis’ blood being turned into the ‘wind-buffeted’ anemone. 

 Of course, if Paganini was aluding to an affair of his own heart, then the choice of Adonis as alter ego  is interesting, as it explicitly references a young boy, calling in love with an older, though very beautiful woman, who is of divine/royal blood, and is in a position of power over him. Such a choice of text could only fuel the rumours as to the propriety, or otherwise, of his relationship with the arriviste  princess.

 Judith Bingham:

 “Presumably, if Paganini was following the Ovid closely, then the voice of the older woman, would be carried by the G string, the boy by the E string. But it is clear fro his description of the piece, that he has not done this, which might suggest that he is either less well versed in Ovid as he should be, or is simply going with gender stereotypes.”

This is where Judith Bingham’s reimagining of the piece and Paganini’s description part company. Judith’s piece is subtle, delicate, and joyous. Paganini’s references are, like most of Ovid, emotionally devastating and blood-drenched. 

 The idea of a dialogue between two different voices, resurfaces again and again in Paganini’s music. At its simplest, it can be heard in his favourite gambit  of repeating a melody first heard in own tessitura, in a contrasting one. It became very obvious to me, working on his violin, il cannone , that the differences between different registers was clearly a central feature of the violin about which he clearly built his entire musical persona.

But there is some evidence, however slight, that this was not only device which he confined to the violin.  One the discredited works now believed to not be by Paganini is a Scherzo  for guitar. This has the full title Dialogo tra una vecchia e una giovane (Dialogue between an aold woman and a young woman) According to the frontispiece of the first ediation of this work:

 “…in Modena on the 10th  April, the famous violin and guitar virtuoso Niccolo Paganini overheard two market women, who were arguing passionately. Paganini immediately went back to his hotel-he was living then in the Albergo Scudo-took his guitar, tuned it in the normal manner [check], and thus created the following Dialog between an old and young woman.” [CT 345]

Whether or not the story or the piece is authentic, what is fascinating is the perception that Paganini’s work was drawn directly from such human interaction, what it tells us as to how Paganini’s work was seen as being imitative.