Also known as Il Trillo del Diavolo, or "The Devil's Trill". A virtuosic violin sonata in G minor composed by Giuseppe Tartini. The last of the four movements contains the signature "trill", which requires supernal talent to execute.
The Faustian overtones of the story of its composition are echoed in the lush, exquisite, darkly thrilling notes of its performance.
In 1765, Tartini - one of the greatest violin virtuosi of the time - dreamt that he offered his violin to the Devil (whose fondness for musicians is still well known), in order to see how well he could play. Tartini wrote that what he then heard was:
"...a sonata so unusual and so beautiful, performed with such mastery and intelligence, on a level I had never before conceived was possible! I was so overcome that I stopped breathing and awoke gasping. Immediately I seized my violin, hoping to recall some shred of what I had just heard - but in vain. The piece I then composed is without doubt my best...but it falls so far short of the one that stunned me that I would have smashed my violin and given up music forever if I could but possess it."
The piece is so difficult that it seems to taunt those who dare it with the promise of rare heights. Violinist Andrew Manze (if ever a Johnny from Devil Went Down to Georgia was, he's it) offers a performance (available on his recording Tartini, The Devil's Sonata and Other Works) that whips at lightning speed through trills and better-have-alien-physiology finger stretches with such virtuosity and passion that the composition has as much in common with moonshine-fueled bluegrass fiddle and Hendrixian guitar ecstasies as it does with its more closely related Baroque kin - until it drops back into sated quiescence - only to rise and peak again, and again...
18 minutes. But that's all it takes for the listener, like Tartini, to be left gasping for air.
Tartini died on February 26, 1770 after a long illness. Whether the onset of his illness corresponds nearly to the commitment of the Devil's composition to paper is unknown, but assumed by some.