Tartini: La Sonata del Diavolo in G minor; 14 Variations from L’arte del arco; Violin Sonata in A minor, B: a3; Pastorale for Violin in scordatura, B: A16

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COMPOSERS: Tartini
LABELS: Harmonia Mu
WORKS: La Sonata del Diavolo in G minor; 14 Variations from L’arte del arco; Violin Sonata in A minor, B: a3; Pastorale for Violin in scordatura, B: A16
PERFORMER: Andrew Manze (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907213
Prior to Robert Johnson’s legendary encounters with the devil in the Thirties, probably the best-known diabolic incursion into Western music was Tartini’s The Devil’s Sonata (aka The Devil’s Trill), composed between 1713 and c1750. Tartini dreamt he sold his soul to the devil, who, in return, took up a violin and played ‘a sonata so unusual and so beautiful… that I stopped breathing and awoke gasping’. Trying to recapture that satanic majesty, Tartini wrote The Devil’s Sonata, which is certainly fiendishly hard to play, particularly the infamous trill in the last movement.

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In the hands of Andrew Manze, the sonata transcends its complexities to become a beautiful and compelling piece of music, closely followed by the Pastorale, with its fantastical Grave, and the other works here. Manze plays them all solo, as Tartini preferred, and the lack of continuo allows him an interpretative freedom that he exploits to the full, combining clarity of articulation and fluency of phrase in a display of mesmerising technical bravura that the devil himself might envy. Magnificent! Graham Lock