Archive for August, 2012

Tartini, the passionate & the possessed

Italians often have the reputation as being a very passionate people. They’re passionate about their food, about their wine, about their women…& about their music. Giuseppe Tartini, & the way he lived his life, definitely fit that stereotype.


Born in 1692, Tartini is considered to have been Italian—because his hometown of Pirano belonged then to the Republic of Venice, which was a major & powerful cultural hub in all of Europe. Today Piran (located on the Istrian Peninsula, close to Trieste) is actually part of Slovenia—of the former Yugoslavia. His language was Italian, but today, ‘Italian’ is a Piranese’s 2nd language.


He indirectly learned to play the violin by getting married—because after he did, he needed to go into hiding; & while he was in hiding, he spent much of his time practicing at the instrument & becoming incredibly proficient at it. This was not merely a nonchalant effort to pass the time by trying out a new hobby; back then, a person could actually make a good living as a skilled musician—so this was probably an actual career choice. So why did he need to go into hiding in the 1st place? Well, it wasn’t just totally because of the age difference between Tartini & his wife (she was apparently under-aged), but probably more-so because at the time he was still officially registered to becoming a priest; & the Cardinal of Venice utilized the ‘underage’ violation as an excuse to actually ‘bounty hunt’ on out after him for breach of vows. Remember, back then ‘The Church’ was very powerful & authoritative.  The charges, however, were dropped after 2 years.


But Tartini then actually locked himself away even a 2nd time in order to practice. Apparently in 1716, after hearing Francesco Maria Veracini (another great Italian violinist & composer) perform, Tartini became enraged—so dissatisfied & disgusted with his own playing—that he cancelled all public performances for himself, fled to Padua & went back into years of isolation in order to ‘woodshed’.


Direct link to video on Youtube


Tartini’s big claim to fame though came by way of even more drama & controversy. During a night filled by a deep sleep, Tartini believed that he was visited by the Devil himself by way of a dream. In this dream, the Devil allegedly sat at the foot of his bed, picked up his violin & played the most amazing piece of music that he had ever heard. There is speculation as to whether Tartini actually ‘sold his soul to the Devil’ in exchange for being able to recall the piece, but Tartini claimed that when he awoke, he immediately ran to manuscript paper & jotted down all that he could remember.  It became known as ‘The Devil’s Trill” Sonata, & so technically demanding, there developed a myth in the 19th century that Tartini must have had 6 digits on his left hand just to play it.  Regardless, the legend of its origins was initially received as a possible marketing ploy. However, Tartini had apparently actually tried to keep the whole thing a secret for 2 years—especially given the obvious dilemma it would pose for him as being a prominent musician & composer for the Church. Strangely enough though, experts on Tartini’s music also tend to agree that this sonata is stylistically much different from all of his other works, both before it & after it.


Either way, this tale of the Devil using a violin to seduce souls over to the ‘other side’, has since been the inspiration for several other works & folklore, including that of Niccolo Paganini, & it was even revisited this past century in the popular Country song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels band.


Tartini was also an excellent swordsman in the art of Fencing, & had allegedly even killed a man once in the heat of a duel.  He is also the 1st person known to have owned a Stradivari violin (1715).  He died 1770, the same year that Beethoven was born.



How I recorded it:


This Adagio was a bit more tricky. Because the actual melody line fluctuates between the 1st & 2nd trumpets, I needed to constantly stop at the end of each section & switch parts—in order to keep it separated within their respective parts. I recorded all melody lines first, then all the harmony lines. Thus, I had to use 2 tracks per part (2 for Trpt#1, 2 for Trpt#2, & 2 for Trpt#3)—1 track was used for when it had the melody & 1 for when it had the harmony. I also used a flugelhorn for the Trpt#3 part, to break up the monotony of (& give a subtle variety to) the timbre of the instruments. Trust me, I know that my sound-recording here is far from perfect. My tracks were not necessarily all done on the 1st take, however I did play each section (one right after the other) straight through in 1 take each & without any overdubs or punch in corrections.


I again did not use a metronome as I wished to capture a more ‘human feel’—something that I feel is often lacking in much of today’s ‘music’. I also again slightly panned (separated) all the parts—so that the listener will be able to hear each part individually & yet still appreciate their relation as one complete single musical idea.  For best results, try using headphones.


The 3rd Trumpet Part (copyrighted, 2012 ©) was written mainly by Jules Sposato, with certain sub-parts being written by Peter J Blume. I then adapted the whole 3rd part to fit better sonically from theory to application, especially since I did not include the piano accompaniment part on this recording; the original music had been scored for violin (transcribed for trumpet) & piano.


The AUDIO here is copyrighted by Peter J Blume, 2012 ©


“I dedicate my humble audio recording here (of this great Tartini masterpiece) to Mr Jules Sposato, who was my very 1st trumpet teacher; for sparking & cultivating my interest in the Trumpet (ALL Brass, really), & for instilling in me the importance of ‘Practicing’–& the importance of learning to love to practice”–PjB

Thanks for listening & hope you enjoy!—Peter J Blume, trumpeter (2012)

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