This performance was recorded on Feb. 4, 2020. We will continue releasing Tiny Desk videos of shows that had already been taped. In light of current events, NPR is postponing new live tapings of Tiny Desk Concerts. In the meantime, check out Tiny Desk (home) concerts! They’re recorded by the artists in their home. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.
May 11, 2020 | Tom Huizenga -- Violinists have special relationships with their instruments, almost like marriages. And so it was that when the Grammy-winning fiddler Augustin Hadelich came to play his Tiny Desk concert, he brought with him the equivalent of a new significant other. Unpacking his beautiful Guarneri del Gesù, built around 1744, Hadelich admitted that he had played this extraordinary violin for only about a month. But when he began to make music on the instrument, it was clear that these two are perfectly matched. The violin, once owned by the famed virtuoso Henryk Szeryng, has been called one of the finest concert violins in the world. And Hadelich has been called one of the finest concert violinists in the world. Born in Italy to German parents, he studied at Juilliard in New York. His sweep of the top awards at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in 2006 launched his career. With his discerning pianist Kuang-Hao, Hadelich put the 276-year-old del Gesù through its paces in the propulsive "40% Swing" from John Adams' Road Movies. He made the instrument croon sweetly in Dvořák's "Humoresque," a chestnut of old world charm, especially in violinist Fritz Kreisler's beloved arrangement. And a burst of energy returned to round out the set with the bustling "Burlesca," by Czech composer Josef Suk, a favorite pupil of Dvořák who later became his son-in-law. Hadelich and his fiddle might still be in that honeymoon period, but for his sake – and ours – let's hope they remain the best of friends.
SET LIST Adams: Road Movies, III. "40% Swing" Dvořák: Humoresque in G-flat (arr. Kreisler) Suk: 4 Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 17: IV. Burleska
MUSICIANS Augustin Hadelich: violin; Kuang-Hao Huang: piano
CREDITS Producers: Tom Huizenga, Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern; Creative director: Bob Boilen; Audio engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Maia Stern, Melany Rochester: Editor: Melany Rochester; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Shanti Hands; Executive producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Kisha Ravi/NPR
Tartini allegedly told the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that he had dreamed that the devil had appeared to him and had asked to be Tartini's servant and teacher. At the end of the music lesson, Tartini handed the devil his violin to test his skill, which the devil began to play with virtuosity, delivering an intense and magnificent performance. So singularly beautiful and executed with such superior taste and precision was the Devil's performance, that the composer felt his breath taken away. The complete story is told by Tartini himself in Lalande's Voyage d'un François en Italie:
One night, in the year 1713 I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. Everything went as I wished: my new servant anticipated my every desire. Among other things, I gave him my violin to see if he could play. How great was my astonishment on hearing a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such great art and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy. I felt enraptured, transported, enchanted: my breath failed me, and I awoke. I immediately grasped my violin in order to retain, in part at least, the impression of my dream. In vain! The music which I at this time composed is indeed the best that I ever wrote, and I still call it the "Devil's Trill", but the difference between it and that which so moved me is so great that I would have destroyed my instrument and have said farewell to music forever if it had been possible for me to live without the enjoyment it affords me.
Mesmerized by the devil's brilliant and awe-inspiring playing, Tartini attempted to recreate what he had heard. However, despite having said that the sonata was his favorite, Tartini later wrote that it was "so inferior to what I had heard, that if I could have subsisted on other means, I would have broken my violin and abandoned music forever." While he claimed he composed the sonata in 1713, scholars think it was likely composed as late as the 1740s, due to its stylistic maturity. It was not published until 1798 or 1799, almost thirty years after the composer's death.
In 1942, acclaimed American dancer / choreographer José Limón created a new piece set to J.S. Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 in D Minor for solo violin. Now an integral part of the repertory of his namesake company, earlier this year the ensemble teamed up with WQXR and violinist Johnny Gandelsman for this gorgeous video, shot in the Limón Dance Company’s Harlem rehearsal space.