The Devil’s Trill, Giuseppe Tartini (1769)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror September 15, 2015
Come meet Giuseppe Tartini, the devil’s son, in the city of Padua, Italy. Giuseppe lived from 1692 to 1770 and is remembered famously for his violin Sonata in G Minor, known as The Devil’s Trill. Besides Giuseppe’s technical skills and the poetic qualities of his music, he is revered as the godfather of modern violinists. He produced 200 sonatas and concertos but not a single one is comparable to The Devil’s Trill or as famous. Here is his true story as told to French astronomer Jerome Lalande and published in the Voyage d’un Français en Italie in 1769.
“One night I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. Everything went as I desired: my new servant anticipated my every wish. I had the idea of giving him my violin to see if he might play me some pretty tunes, but imagine my astonishment when I heard a sonata so unusual and so beautiful, performed with such mastery and intelligence, on a level I had never before conceived was possible. I was so overcome that I stopped breathing and woke up gasping. Immediately I seized my violin, hoping to recall some shred of what I had just heard; but in vain. The piece I then composed is without a doubt my best, and I still call it “The Devil’s Sonata,” but it falls so far short of the one that stunned me that I would have smashed my violin and given up music forever if I could but have possessed it.”
Some say it’s just legend. Some say this is a fiction. Some believe that dreams bring us to unknown worlds, just as music does, and that Giuseppe was touched by the devil when he composed and played this sonata. The sonata is said to have no autograph on the sheet music written in Tartini’s hand.
And what about Paganini? Did he sell his soul to the devil to master the violin? That story is for another Tuesday.
If you like short stories about supernatural music, here is one that will strike the perfect note.
The Music of Erich Zann by H. P. Lovecraft.
Erich Zann is a Renaissance viol-player and a mute with a wrinkled satyr-like face. He lives in the one-windowed garret of the peaked boarding house on the Rue d’Auseil and every night plays his music. Our narrator in this story is a university student of metaphysics. The city is probably Paris, but the name is not confirmed. The student takes a room in the boarding house on the Rue d’ Auseil, which is a steep and narrow street, a cliff actually that lies beyond the dark river, beyond the bridge made of dark stone—a perfect metaphor for the edge of madness that defines the story.
Read The Music of Erich Zann at HPLovcraft.com.
Listen to the audio, read by Mike Bennett at YouTube.com
For you film fans, watch John Strysik’s adaptation in two parts (total time 17 minutes):
Oh, and one more thing—while we are talking supernatural music from the other side—do keep in mind my supernatural thriller about the dark powers of music, Greylock. Release in October.
Pianist Alexei Georg harbors a dark secret—he finds an old Russian sonata in a 19th-century sea chest. When Alexei plays this handsome music, a creature of darkness appears in the audience, in the aisle, and on the stage with him. This is no ghost.
GREYLOCK … coming soon …
when the leaves fall.
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