Devil’s Trill Sonata (or Tartini’s Dream)

Composer Giuseppe Tartini allegedly told the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that he had dreamed that the Devil had appeared to him and had asked to be Tartini’s servant. At the end of their lessons, Tartini had handed the devil his violin to test his skill, which the devil immediately began to play with such virtuosity that the composer felt his breath taken away.

Today, Tartini’s most famous work is the “Devil’s Trill Sonata,” a solo violin sonata that requires a number of technically demanding double stop trills and is difficult even by modern standards. (One 19th-century myth had it that Tartini had six digits on his left hand, making these trills easier for him to play). According to a legend embroidered upon by Madame Blavatsky, Tartini was inspired to write the sonata by a dream in which the Devil appeared at the foot of his bed playing the violin.







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