Giuseppe Tartini
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Concerto in E major D.48
Ed. © Enrica Bojan

Prepared from all four known sources, this concerto from Tartini's first compositional period emerges as a masterpiece. 

From the preface:

Composed between 1724 and 17351, this concerto in E major D.48 shows a solid formal construction and rhythmic energy, especially in the first movement, and in the third which has a long cadenza a capriccio2.

Excerpts (click image to enlarge)

First Movement

Second Movement

Third Movement

This critical edition was prepared by collating four main sources: the autograph manuscript DVII 1902 n.453 kept at Padua in the Music Archive of the Basilica Antoniana; the manuscript from theConservatory Library in Paris, Grand Fond, ms11228/14 (both sources are quoted by Dounias in his catalogue on Tartini's work4, the manuscript from Berkeley, Music library of the University of California, It.8795; the part for solo violin kept at Udine Civic Library (the last two sources are not quoted by Dounias, but by Nesbeda in his recent catalogue6.

The autograph manuscript is made up of a frontispiece and 8 oblong sheets with 14 staves. The frontispiece bears the inscription 'Concerti Tartini / Partitura n.91'. The number was later changed to 45, also printed further up the page. The interpretation of the manuscript is difficult as it is tightly written, although the handwriting appears clean and tidy. Significant corrections and a few important cuts appear. In some passages, alterations and sharpened notes are not precisely marked, as if written in haste. In the first movement, at bars 76-79 of the basso there is a visible cancellation (p.2 of the manuscript). Clearly Tartini preferred silence and then a series of long notes di bordone rather than the violoncello imitating rhythm and melody as the other parts do. Another cancellation concerns the part of the viola, at bars 121-122 in the first movement (p.4 of the manuscript). The two cancelled bars have been substituted by two written on an empty stave. Another intervention regarding all parts at bar 106 in the third movement (p.6 of the manuscript) is more consistent. A whole section of twelve bars marked Soli is completely eliminated. This melodic phrase, harmonically complete, is not reinstated.

The Paris manuscript is made up of a frontispiece and 11 sheets (5 pages) numbered from 115 to 125, and they form part of a volume containing other concertos. The frontispiece bears the inscription 'Tartini /49 Violin Concertos (Vol:C)' and the numbers given by the library. The first sheet with staves bears an interesting annotation: 'Concerto del Sig.r Giuseppe Tartini. Con viola e violoncello obligati. Originale'. The musical writing, very clear and accurate, shows with precision the parts and the execution of the virtuoso passages. For this reason this source has been used to understand the autograph and in some cases to fill in missing parts.

The clean writing and the word 'originale' would indicate that this copy was written by a copyist known to Tartini, if not directly under the author's supervision.

The Berkeley manuscript is written in separate parts on 9 oblong pages (18 sheets numbered from 1 to 14) with 10 staves each. The separate parts are respectively violino principale, violino primo obligato, violino secondo obligato, alto viola obligata, violoncello obligato. The first music sheet is used as frontispiece and bears the inscription 'Violino principale / concerto / del Sig:r Giuseppe Tartini', without any further annotations. The writing is clear and tidy, without corrections or cuts. The indications Tutti, Solo and Soli correspond to the Paris score and they are more precise than in the autograph manuscript. As in the Paris source, the variations from Tartini's original are minimal. This and the French manuscript are very similar and it was probably written at a later date; the writing of the accidentals in the text is in fact more in keeping with modern usage than with eighteenth century practice.

The part for the solo violin from the Udine library is made up of a frontispiece with staves with the inscription 'Concerto / del Sig.r Giuseppe Tartini / Violino principale', and of 4 sheets over two pages. One cannot be certain if this part for solo violin, is the only one remaining from a lost set of concertos by Tartini, kept with others in one volume as loose pages, as was customary in the eighteenth century.

In the autograph manuscript by Tartini at the beginning of the first and second movement there are two long motti cifrati, translated by Dounias in his catalogue7 with the verses 'Volgetemi amoroso un guardo piů pietoso, o luci belle, sě, ma troppo Were' and 'Ron-dinella vaga e bella che dal mar faccia tragitto lascia il nido e all'aere infido fida il volo e la speranza'8. These are poetic verses, metrically complete, recalling the structure of the spoken and sung words of the melodrama, with topical references to Arcadia. It has not been possible to find the provenance of these verses among the massive production of the eighteenth century. However there are indications of a link between Tartini and the works of Vivaldi from the same period9. Therefore one should not be surprised to find a veiled reference to a passage by the Venetian composer, probably heard as part of a pasticcio, often performed10.

According to the most recent studies a motto is neither a literary nor a melodramatic quotation, but simply a syllabic adherence to the melodic line of the solo violin. This theory, though, is not widely accepted at present. If it were the case, one would have to investigate the reason why Tartini chose such a cryptic way to mark his pieces. Most probably these motti had a very private meaning as they only appear in the autograph manuscripts, but not in later sources, not even in the Paris one, described as 'original'.

The study of Tartini's score poses problems concerning the instrumental ensemble, usually not specified by the composer.11 One must bear in mind that Tartini's concertos were generally performed in the Basilica del Santo in Padua during solemn ceremonies12. Tartini probably would have played the Solo part (he had been 'first violinist and concertmaster' since 1721) and he had at his disposal a large orchestra accustomed to performing on such occasions. This meant that detailed musical annotations were not required in the score13. The matter of Tartini's instrumental ensemble is still unresolved. Studies tend to conclude that the number of players and instruments depended on availability and the occasion of the performance.14

Here, without presuming to resolve this delicate matter, but on the basis of the original score, the passages marked by Tartini as Tutti in the first and third movements can be assigned as follows: the first stave to the solo violin and the first violins in unison, the second to a second violin obbligato (or to a group of second violins), and the last one, in bass clef, to the violoncello (obbligato, according to the Paris and Berkeley sources) as basso continuo. In the passages marked Solo and Soli, in addition to the solo violin we find first and second violins written on the same stave in treble clef sometimes in contrast, sometimes in unison while viola and violoncello sustain the harmony15.

In contrast, the second movement of the concerto has three parts written in treble clef (for solo violin, first and second violins) and one in bass clef. The viola is silent. In the autograph score we do not have a part for a keyboard instrument as basso continuo; there are no figures and the lower texture is indicated solely by the bass clef at the beginning of each stave. Studies tend to exclude the use of the clavichord, but some elements external to the original score, as well as other documents not strictly of musical nature, seem to confirm the use of the organ, especially in view of the fact that the concertos were written to be performed in the Basilica del Santo, a religious environment where the organ was sovereign16. The present critical consensus suggests that the basso continuo would accompany the passages marked Tutti, and be silent in those marked Soli17. However in this concerto the basso, given to the violoncello obbligato in the Paris and Berkeley sources, has a definite role also in the passages marked Soli.

In this edition, the basso continuo has not been realised, but only indicated as complementary to the part of the violoncello, leaving the execution to the player's discretion18.

In the autograph manuscript there are no tempo indications. These are present at the beginning of each passage in all other sources. In this text the indications Allegro, Largo, Allegro have been reintroduced. This critical edition faithfully follows the original score; any amendments have been limited to modernisation of the graphical image. No dynamic indications have been added, as these should be evident to the careful performer. The use of a flat sign to naturalise a sharp has been replaced with a natural to conform with modern practice and the sharp in front of an already sharpened note has been transcribed as a modern double sharp. Accidentals missing in the original have been inserted in square brackets [ ], whilst cautionary accidentals are shown in round brackets ( ).

The ties and slurs have been kept as in the original, a few editorial dashed slurs have been added. The embellishments have been transcribed from the original, without suggestions for their execution. The eighteen century rules for routine execution of embellishments and cadenzas on the crowned points, still constitutes one of the unresolved matters in the study of Tartini's style in spite of the great violinist having compiled the Traité des agrémens for use in his school19. This edition aims to offer a critical text faithful to the original both musically and historically,thus enabling a performance as close as possible to the original practices and style of the composer.

Padua, January 2000
© Enrica Bojan
Translation, Annelisa Evans


  1. According to Dounias the concerto D.48 belongs to Tartini's first period, see M. DOUNIAS, Die Violinkonzerte Giuseppe Tartinis, Zürich, Möseler Verlag, 1935 (reprint Wolfenbüttel, 1966), pp. 265-266. In this volume Tartini's concertos are catalogued by tonality, not chronologically. Incidentally, according to Pierluigi Petrobelli, Tartini's first period ends at the beginning of the 1740s.
  2. Capri describes it as the 'first of the second collection, n.25'(see A. CAPRI, Giuseppe Tartini, Milan, Garzanti, 1945, pp.251-252). In his catalogue, Dounias links the first movement of this concerto with D.99 in A major. According to him the themes of the two concerto coincide, although this has not been proved.
  3. Access to the autograph manuscript has been possible thanks to the kind auspices of the director of the Biblioteca del Santo, Padre Giovanni Luisetto, whom we thank for this gracious help. 
  4. See M.DOUNIAS, Die Violinkonzerte Giuseppe Tartinis, cit., pp.265.266.
  5. With thanks to the Music Library of the University of California, Berkeley, for permission to study and publish parts of this source.
  6. F. NESBEDA, Catalogo delle composizioni, in VARIOUS AUTHORS, Giuseppe Tartini nel terzo centenario della nascita, ed.M.Sofianapulo, Trieste, Tegeste Publishing, 1992, pp.111-112.
  7. See M.DOUNIAS, Die Violinkonzerte Giuseppe Tartinis, cit., pp.265.266.
  8. 'Cast a more loving look upon me, oh beautiful but proud eyes' and 'The little, beautiful swallow, wandering above the sea, leaves her nest and puts her trust, hope and flight in the hands of the treacherous sky'. In his volume Die Violinkonzerte Giuseppe Tartinis, cit., pp.94-95, Dounias deciphers Tartini's personal alphabet, pointing out similarities of many texts with verses from Metastasio's works. The 'motto' which accompanies the beginning of a movement cannot be considered typical of Tartini, as it is infrequently used. Furthermore, the usage of a cryptical alphabet implies that the author did not consider pertinent the introduction of secular elements in a work to be performed in a religious context. For further readings on this still unsolved matter see VARIOUS AUTHORS, Motti tartiniani: nuove concordanze, nuovi problemi, and in VARIOUS AUTHORS, Tartini. Il tempo e le opere, A.Bombi & N.M.Massaro Eds, Bologna, il Mulino, 1994, pp.389-394.
  9. See E.BOJAN, Introduzione in TARTINI, Concerto in G Major D.82, Launton, Edition HH, p.viii., with further refence to all poets and librettists writing texts for Vivaldi's works. 
  10. See A.BELLINA, B.BRIZI, M.G.PENSA, I libretti vivaldiani. Recensione e collazione dei testimoni a stampa, Florence, Olschki, 1982
  11. For an overview on the current knowledge on the works by Tartini see F. NESBEDA, Catalogo..., cit., pp.104-144. It is always useful to consult Petrobelli's book, Giuseppe Tartini, Le fonti biografiche, Vienna-London-Milan, Universal Edition, 1968.
  12. See P. PETROBELLI, Tartini, le sue idee e il suo tempo, Lucca, LIM, 1992, pp.115-116; M. CANALE DEGRASSI, Destinazione e aspetti esecutivi dei concerti per violino di G.Tartini: contributi per un approfondimento in VARIOUS AUTHORS, Intorno a Locatelli, ed.A.Dunning, Lucca, LIM, 1995, pp.152-163.
  13. Further to the mentioned studies by Petrobelli and Canale see also E. FARINA, Pubblicare oggi le opere di Tartini Tartini. Il tempo e le opere, cit.pp.401-408.
  14. About this problem see P. PETROBELLI, Per l'edizione critica di un concerto tartiniano, in Tartini, le sue idee e il suo tempo, cit., pp.109-136; M. CANALE DEGRASSI, Destinazione e aspetti esecutivi ...,cit., pp.151-173. The instrumental ensemble has been recreated in line with other concertos and considering elements exterior to the score.
  15. About this problem see P. PETROBELLI, Per l'edizione critica..., cit., pp.111-136.
  16. P. PETROBELLI, Per l'edizione critica..., cit., pp.134-135. This problem is still open and as yet we do not have a definite answer.
  17. E. FARINA, Pubblicare oggi le opere di Tartini, cit., pp.404-405
  18. Critics tend to agree that Tartini seemed to prefer the linear sound of the solo cello to the harmonic density of a keyboard instrument. See E. FARINA, Ibid., p.408.
  19. The Traité des agrémens was left unpublished by Tartini and it was printed for the first time in Paris, translated by P.Denis, in 1771 with the same title. The supposed original in Italian is entitled Regole per ben suonare il violino. On this subject see VARIOUS AUTHORS, Fonti tartiniane: alcune annotazioni and L. GRASSO CAPRIOLI, Lessico tecnico e strutture linguistiche di Tartini didatta nelle 'Regole per ben suonare il violino', in VARIOUS AUTHORS, Tartini. Il tempo e le opere, pp.395-400 and pp.281-298. The second study quotes the most important writings of the time on the embellishments (by J. J. Quantz, C. Ph. E. Bach, L. Mozart) and emphasizes the peculiarity of Tartini's system. We would like to point out that, according to the customs of the time, the trill (and the brief trill, mordant) would normally start from the higher accessory note and that the appoggiatura was performed then as it is today.

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Created: Tuesday, July 22, 2003, Updated Tuesday, June 21, 2016
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