Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/78

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modulations richer and more varied. Still more striking is the progress if we look at Tartini's subject-matter, at the character of his ideas, and the spirit of their treatment. Not content with the noble but somewhat conventional pathos of the slow movements of the older school, their well-written but often rather dry fugues and fugatos and traditional dance-rhythms, he introduces in his slow movements a new element of emotion and passion; most of his quick movements are highly characteristic, and even in their 'passages' have nothing dry and formal, but are full of spirit and fire. In addition to all this we not rarely meet with an element of tender dreamy melancholy and of vivid imagination which now and then grows into the fantastic or romantic. His works bear not so much the stamp of his time as that of his own peculiar individuality; and in this respect he may well be regarded as a prototype of the most individual of all violinists, Paganini. What we know from one of his pupils about his peculiar habits in composing, throws a significant light on the more peculiarly intellectual bent of his musical talent. Before sitting down to a new composition, he would read a sonnet of Petrarch; under the notes of his violin-parts he would write the words of a favourite poem, and to single movements of his sonatas he would often give mottos, such as 'Ombra cara' or 'Volgete il riso in pianto o mie pupille.' The most striking illustration of this peculiar side of his artistic character is given in his famous sonata 'Il Trillo del Diavolo.' According to Lalande ('Voyage d'un Francais en Italie 1765 et 66,' tom. 8) Tartini himself used to relate the circumstances under which he conceived the idea of this singularly fine piece, in the following manner: 'One night I dreamt that I had made a bargain with the devil for my soul. Everything went at my command,—my novel servant anticipated every one of my wishes. Then the idea struck me to hand him my fiddle and to see what he could do with it. But how great was my astonishment when I heard him play with consummate skill a sonata of such exquisite beauty as surpassed the boldest flight of my imagination. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted; my breath was taken away; and I awoke. Seizing my violin I tried to retain the sounds I had heard. But it was in vain. The piece I then composed, the Devil's Sonata, although the best I ever wrote, how far below the one I had heard in my dream!'

The number of his compositions is enormous. Fétis enumerates over 50 Sonatas with bass, 18 Concertos with accompaniment of stringed orchestra, and a Trio for 2 violins and bass, all which were published in various editions at Paris, London, and Amsterdam. In addition to these a large number of works exist in MS. Gerber speaks of over 200 violin concertos, Fétis of 48 unpublished sonatas and 127 concertos. He also composed a Miserere, which was performed during Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel in the year 1768; but according to Fétis this was a work of little importance and has never been performed again.

It remains to speak of Tartini's writings on the theory of music. During his stay at Ancona, probably in 1716, he discovered the fact that, in sounding double stops, a third or combination-sound was produced. He was not content to utilise this observation by making the appearance of this third note a criterion of the perfect intonation of double stops (which do not produce it at all unless taken with the most absolute correctness), but he tried to solve the scientific problem underlying the phenomenon. In the then undeveloped state of acoustics it was impossible for him to succeed. It is also highly probable that his knowledge of mathematics was insufficient for the task. At any rate he wrote and published an elaborate work on the theory of musical science generally, and on the phenomenon of a third sound in particular, under the title 'Trattato di Musica secondo la vera scienza dell' Armonia' (Padua, 1754). His theories were attacked in a number of pamphlets, amongst them one by J. J. Rousseau. In 1767 he published a second book, 'Dei principii dell' Armonia Musicale contenuta nel diatonico genere,' and towards the end of his life he wrote a third one on the mathematics of music, 'Delle ragioni e delle proporzioni,' which however has never been published and appears to be lost. The absolute value of Tartini's theoretical writings is probably not great, but there remains the fact, that he was the discoverer of an interesting acoustical phenomenon which only the advanced scientific knowledge of our days has been able to explain (Helmholtz)—a fact which, coupled with his serious attempts to solve the problem, speaks much for his intellectual attainments and versatility of mind.

Finally he wrote, under the title 'Trattato delle appogiature si ascendenti che discendenti per il violino,' etc., a little work on the execution and employment of the various kinds of shakes, mordents, cadenzas, etc. As giving an authentic explanation and direction for the execution of these ornaments according to the usage of the classical Italian school, this work is most interesting. It appears that it has never been published in Italian, but a French translation exists, under the title 'Traité des agrémens de la Musique, composé par le célèbre Giuzeppe Tartini à Padone, et traduit par le Sigr. P. Denis. A Paris chez

M. de la Chevardier.'[1]

[ P. D. ]

TASKIN, Pascal, celebrated instrument-maker, and head of a family of musicians, born 1723, at Theux in the province of Liége, migrated early to Paris, and was apprenticed to Etienne Blanchet, the best French clavecin-maker of the period. Succeeding eventually to the business, he improved the tone of his spinets and harpsichords, by substituting slips of leather for the crowquills then in use in the jacks (1768). [See vol. ii. p. 27 a.] In 1772 Louis XV. offered him the post of Keeper of the Musical Instruments

and the Chapel Royal, vacant by the death of

  1. The writer of this article has to acknowledge his obligations for much valuable information contained In Wasielewsky's book, 'Die Violine und Ihre Meister.'