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NEW TO YOUTUBE | Violinist Rachell Ellen Wong Performs Tartini’s “The Devil's Trill” Sonata

The first baroque-specific recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant performs Tartini’s Violin Sonata in G minor on a baroque violin

 

“I’ve often been labeled as a Baroque violinist,” Wong recently told The Violin Channel. “And while I do play Baroque violin and the music associated with the period, I also play the music of other time periods — so for me, this label doesn’t make sense. 

“For me, studying historical performance was so helpful for my modern playing, and vice versa. I think if everyone could have a chance even to do some historical performance, it would be so helpful in developing and finding our own voices in our own interpretations of music,” she advised. 

Wong holds a master's degree in historical performance from The Juilliard School and is also a graduate of Indiana University and the University of Texas. Her teachers include Brian Lewis, Cynthia Roberts, Elizabeth Blumenstock, Kent Coleman, Mark Kaplan, Monica Huggett, Rachel Podger, Simon James, and Stanley Ritchie. 

The "Devil’s Trill Sonata" was not published until after Tartini’s death and without access to the original manuscript, scholars have theorized that the piece was written in the mid-eighteenth century. 

Joseph Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande, an astronomer and writer, was the scribe who recorded the origin of the piece. While visiting the composer, Tartini told him of a dream he had:

“One night I dreamed I had made a bargain with the Devil for my soul...I gave him my violin to see what he could do with it. How great was my astonishment to hear him play, with such consummate art and intelligence, a sonata more exquisitely beautiful than anything I had conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy,” Tartini supposedly said. 

“I felt enraptured, transported, spellbound. My breath failed me, and I awoke. At once seizing my violin, I tried to retain the sounds I had heard in my dream. But it was in vain. The music I then composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I call it the ‘Devil’s Sonata,’ but it is so inferior to the one I heard in my dream that I would have destroyed my instrument, bidding farewell to music forever, if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it gives me.”

 

GIUSEPPE TARTINI | VIOLIN SONATA IN G MINOR “THE DEVIL’S TRILL” | RACHELL ELLEN WONG

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