Born April 8, 1692 in Piran (now in Slovenia) on the Adriatic coast, Tartini became a famous Italian violist and composer. Defying his parent’s wishes to become a Franciscan priest, he studied law at the University of Padua and developed a skill for fencing. After marrying the favorite of a powerful Cardinal, he was accused of abduction and fled to St. Francis’ convent in Assisi. (Thus he entered the Franciscan convent via the back door, an ironic twist on his parents hopes!) While in hiding, he traded in his sword for a violin bow, and discovered his real passion for music.
Eventually all is forgiven, and he returns to Padua, where he became Kapellmeister at Il Santo. In 1726 he started a violin school which soon gained international fame. As a noted teacher and composer, Tartini wrote treatises on theory, acoustics and harmony, developed the bowing technique that became the standard, and composed about 350 violin concertos and sonatas. Unlike his Italian contemporaries, he never composed operas and composed only a few sacred works. One of his most famous (and unsacred!) compositions is the Devil’s Trill Sonata, inspired by a dream of the devil playing violin at the foot of his bed. Full of double stop trills, it is still one of the most devilishly demanding virtuoso violin works. Listen to Itzhak Perlman perform the Devil’s Trill.
Tartini was the first known owner of a violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1715, and this famous instrument known as the Lipinski Stradivarius has passed down through the ages, now with its current owner, Milwaukee Symphony Concertmaster Frank Almond.
Tartini died in Padua on Feb. 26, 1770, the year that Beethoven was born.