Young violinists in Tartini Square

Photo: Zdravko Primožič

The renowned violinist Giuseppe Tartini, the author of the famous Devil’s Trill Sonata, was born in magical Piran in 1692 and still inspires thousands of young violinists today.

The composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini  was born on 8 April 1692 in Piran, one of the most enchanting towns on the Adriatic coast, filled with unique Mediterranean charm. 

Tartini was one of the finest violinists of his day. He was also extremely popular as a composer, slightly predating the classical era, and as an original music theorist. With a style significantly influenced by the baroque master Arcangelo Corelli, Tartini himself is considered a "rococo" composer owing to his frequent use of trills and other ornaments. His most famous work is the Devil's Trill Sonata. According to legend, the Devil appeared to him in a dream playing the violin. The moment he woke up, he reached for a pen and wrote down the melody. Thus one of the most famous and difficult European compositions for violin was born. Piran's main square today bears the name of its famous son, who was born in a house on the square. The annual Tartini Festival  is also dedicated to his memory. This international festival of chamber music places a particular focus on baroque music and performers include the leading ensembles and soloists in this genre. 

During the restoration of the statue of Tartini in 2016, the restorers discovered a moving message left by the sculptor to his late wife Ida. The message reads: "Ida Lessiach Naya Dal Zotto, Buona Sapiente Bella, Volò a Dio 9-19-1893. Il Suo Anton Dal Zotto" (Ida Lessiach Naya Dal Zotto, Good, Wise and Beautiful, Taken Unto God, 19 September 1893. [Signed] Her Anton Dal Zotto). The sculptor chose an inaccessible spot on the edge of the violin for his secret personal dedication, which remained hidden for 120 years. 

Music education has a long and very interesting history in Slovenia, with the oldest references to the teaching of music dating from the Middle Ages. Copies of discussions about music and accounts of the early education of musicians survive from the twelfth century onwards. Music teaching initially took place in monasteries, and then in major parish centres. Music, particularly singing and the basics of music theory, was part of the curriculum of Protestant schools in the sixteenth century. It was also taught in Catholic institutions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A wide range of text books and manuals have survived from this period. The most notable of these in terms of its historical value is a work written by an organist from Novo mesto (Noten-Buch darinnen di Fundamenta zu dem Clavier oder Orgel enthalten). When the first public music school opened its doors in Ljubljana in 1815, it set itself the mission of providing free tuition that was accessible to all. It provided its students, and also trainee teachers, with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with various instruments and acquire basic musical knowledge. When a teaching vacancy was announced in newspapers as far afield as Klagenfurt, Graz, Vienna and Prague, it attracted 21 applicants. Among the unsuccessful candidates was a young Franz Schubert. 

Roughly at the same time, in 1820, the music school of the Philharmonic Society began offering lessons. The "Philharmonische Gesellschaft" (1794– 1919) was one of the oldest bürgerlich (bourgeois) societies within the Habsburg Empire. It was founded by Ljubljana citizens who were also musical dilettantes. The Society's purpose was to cultivate music, particularly instrumental music. Concerts were organised with the Society's own amateur orchestra, and a music school with string and wind departments was founded.  The Society boasted some very distinguished honorary members, including Haydn, Beethoven and Paganini.Its first-class concert hall, the Tonhalle in Congress Square, was built in 1891 and is today the home of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra 

Over time, music schools were founded in other cities, including Trieste, Maribor, Celje and Ptuj. To begin with they were established under the auspices of the existing German music societies. Later, with the development of the nationally conscious reading-room movement, music schools of a distinctive Slovenian character began to be founded. The most prominent role in this process was played by the Glasbena Matica music society, which opened its own school in 1882 and then established a number of branches (Novo mesto, Celje, Kranj, Trieste, Gorizia, Maribor, Ptuj). The essential aim of these efforts was to encourage Slovenian musical creativity and performance.

Today Slovenia has a wide range of music schools. In most cases these offer their students individual instrumental lessons, which guarantees a very high quality of teaching. In addition to their chosen instrument, children attend music theory classes, which introduce them to reading music, with a view to developing their ability to perform and create. An important complement to the study of solo instruments comes in the form of participation in chamber ensembles, choirs and orchestras.

Text by Tanja Glogovčan