He was one of the greatest violinists of his age
Giuseppe Tartini was born on April 8, 1692 in Piran. His father, Gianantonio was originally from Florence and moved to Piran most likely because of his trade business. Giuseppe’s mother, Caterina Zangrando, was a noblewoman descended from one of the oldest families in Piran. The young Tartini begun his education at the San Filippo Neri oratorio in Piran, and was later enrolled in the Collegio dei padri delle scuole Pie in Koper. He probably also attended Piran’s academy I virtuosi, which brought together all educated Piran citizens, to discuss music, art and literature. His father wanted him to become a priest, but his tumultuous nature drove him to pursue a different path. He continued his studies at the faculty of jurisprudence at the University of Padua. After upsetting a local bishop by marrying his niece, he was forced to leave Padua. He sought refuge at Assisi’s monastery where he studied the violin and the basics of composition intently. In this period he also did research on the laws of acoustics. Not much is known of the following years; we know that he played in various theatrical orchestras and that he performed as a soloist. Also it is known that he perfected his violin skills in Ancona, where he spent two years in study.
In 1721 he was invited to be first violin and concert master at the basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua. He was appointed without an audition, which testifies to the great reputation he enjoyed as a virtuoso. After a short stay in Prague, he spent the bulk of his best creative years in Padua, where he again took over the lead of the musical chapel in the cathedral. In 1728 he founded the famous violin school La scuola delle nazioni. Students came from all over Europe thus earning him the nickname Il maestro delle nazioni, that is Master of the nations. He died in Padua on the 26th of February 1770. He is buried in St. Catherine’s church in Padua, as a memorial plaque dedicated to him on the façade testifies.
Tartini left behind a sizeable body of work: about 130 concerts and over 170 sonatas for the violin. He composed primarily for the violin, and his most famous piece for the instrument is the Devil’s Trill sonata. A legend tells of a dream he had wherein the devil himself visited him and played the violin. The moment he woke up he wrote down the melody. That is how one of the most famous and demanding European pieces for the violin is said to have come into existence.