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#49900 - 02/26/11 02:31 PM The Devil and Classical Music
mike616joaquin Offline

Registered: 11/25/10
Posts: 8
Loc: London, England
As a fan of classical music, i thought I would do a quick post about something interesting, this being the inspiration of the Devil around 17th Century Writers and composers.

The story behind Tartini's the "Devil's Trill" started with a dream. Tartini allegedly told the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that he dreamed that The Devil appeared to him and asked to be his servant. At the end of their lessons Tartini handed the devil his violin to test his skill—the devil immediately began to play with such virtuosity that Tartini felt his breath taken away. When the composer awoke he immediately jotted down the sonata, desperately trying to recapture what he had heard in the dream. Despite the sonata being successful with his audiences, Tartini lamented that the piece was still far from what he had heard in his dream. What he had written was, in his own words: "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."

It is also known as: — The Violin Sonata in G minor

This isn't the first time that "the Devil" had appeared to classical figures in and around the 17th Century, personally I believe it was a manifestation of the modern enlightenment era.

Another reference worth mentioning is the appearance of the Devil in Der Kampf der Sänger' (1818), based on a 13th-century tale about a contest of minnesingers (Minnesang was the traditional song writing method in Germany which flourished in the 12th century and continued into the 14th century. People who wrote and performed Minnesang are known as Minnesingers), in which one of the competitors has the Devil on his side, as written by ETA Hoffman. This was such a dark work that people accused Hoffman of being "influenced" by the Devil and trying to destroy the church.

Another classical violinist said to be "in league with the Devil" was Niccolò Paganini. He was one of the most celebrated violin virtuosi of his time (27 October 1782 – 27 May 1840). His Caprice No. 24 in A minor, Op. 1, is among the best known of his compositions. He also lived a carefree "rock n roll" lifestyle indulging in drugs, women and drink. He was referred to as "the Devil's Son" and "Witch's Brat" as he was able to physically create and play musical pieces unknown or thought possible at the time.

Another subject I will cover in another blog is about the German Legend of Faust which originated in the 16th Century. This myth covers the following books: -

* Das Wagnerbuch (1593)
* Das Widmann'sche Faustbuch (1599)
* Dr. Fausts großer und gewaltiger Höllenzwang (Frankfurt 1609)
* Dr. Johannes Faust, Magia naturalis et innaturalis (Passau 1612)
* Das Pfitzer'sche Faustbuch (1674)
* Dr. Fausts großer und gewaltiger Meergeist (Amsterdam 1692)
* Das Wagnerbuch (1714)
* Faustbuch des Christlich Meynenden (1725)

A brief explanation of the Faust myth comes from Faust or Faustus (Latin for "auspicious" or "lucky") is the protagonist of a classic German legend. Based on a character who although a highly successful scholar, he is unsatisfied, and makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.

Faust's tale is the basis for many literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical works. The meaning of the word and name has been reinterpreted many times. Faust, and the adjective Faustian, are often used to describe an arrangement in which an ambitious person surrenders moral integrity in order to achieve power and success: a "deal with the devil." The terms can also refer to an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

You can hear the Devil's Trill sonata here: - (Vanessa Mae's version) (more classical version)

Paganini's Caprice 24 is below: -


P.S I have taken some dates and references from online resources. Including, the dates of the Faust literary releases, the birth and death of the composers and finally the definition of Faust from the original myth.

#49911 - 02/26/11 02:50 PM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: mike616joaquin]
Morgan Offline

Registered: 08/29/07
Posts: 2956
Loc: New York City
I love this, thank you for sharing.
When I was much younger I played the violin.
I really love the sonata.

Courage Conquering Fear
Fuck em if they can't take a joke
Don't Like What I Say, Kiss My Ass

#49916 - 02/26/11 02:55 PM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: mike616joaquin]
6Satan6Archist6 Offline

Registered: 10/16/08
Posts: 2513
As much as I hate to plug the book, The Satanic Scriptures has a pretty good essay on Classical composers and their relation to Satanism. I've never been into classical music myself but after reading the aforementioned essay it got me looking into few pieces.
No gods. No masters.

#49919 - 02/26/11 02:57 PM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: Morgan]
mike616joaquin Offline

Registered: 11/25/10
Posts: 8
Loc: London, England
Thank you, I will be posting some more information about the Faustian Tradition when completed.
#50077 - 02/28/11 02:05 AM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: mike616joaquin]
Tesseract Offline

Registered: 02/08/11
Posts: 190
Loc: United States
A truly interesting and informative post -- thanks for your effort of putting it up here. I’m always looking for unfamiliar “classical” music that might appeal to me, but it’s been only in the past twenty years or so that I’ve approached classical even half-seriously, so my knowledge is limited. Beethoven and Bach are by far the two composers who most consistently appeal to me. Probably the most recent classical work I’ve purchased was Albinoni’s “Adagio”.

The Itzhak Perlman performance of “Devil’s Trill” was quite enjoyable, but I had to turn the Vanessa Mae version off as soon as the modern pop production kicked in.

I recognized the Paganini Caprice No. 24 from the opening bars -- I just have never known the composer or title until now.

It occurred to me after my initial post to add a link to Albinoni’s “Adagio”.

Edited by Tesseract (02/28/11 02:26 AM)

#50090 - 02/28/11 05:28 AM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: Tesseract]
Woland Moderator Offline
active member

Registered: 08/28/07
Posts: 766
Loc: Oslo, Norway
Mayhap a tad off topic, unless folk-music can be deeme "classical".

Fanitullen, (The Devils Tune).


Contra Mundum!

#74778 - 01/23/13 05:11 PM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: Woland]
3456789 Offline

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 3
Hallo there

Effects of my research (about motifs of evil and death in "classical" music) are:

b) (and all "numbers")
d) (part 1 and 2)
j) (part 1 and 2)
r) (especially 5th movement)


#74798 - 01/23/13 09:09 PM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: 3456789]
Conchis Offline

Registered: 12/16/11
Posts: 207
Loc: us
 Originally Posted By: 3456789
Effects of my research (about motifs of evil and death in "classical" music) are:

What exactly do you mean by "Effects of my research"? What effects, I only see a bunch of video links. Where does the research part come in? What did you learn from this "research"?

A little (and by that I mean a lot) of elaboration would be appreciated.

Edited by Conchis (01/23/13 09:12 PM)

#74806 - 01/23/13 10:26 PM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: 3456789]
Goliath Offline

Registered: 09/26/10
Posts: 93
 Originally Posted By: 3456789

Ah-ha! Black Angels by George Crumb: one of my favourite modernist string quartets, and in my opinion, one of the great works of contemporary classical music.

Listeners may notice that the opening section, "Night of the Electric Insects," was used in the soundtrack for The Exorcist.

I have two recordings of this work in my own collection: by the Concord String Quartet, on the double CD American String Quartets 1950-1970, and by the Kronos Quartet, on the CD Black Angels. Although, come to think of it, these may be the only commercial recordings available.

Of the two, I prefer the Kronos: it's a lot wilder than the Concord, and on the disc it's paired with Shostakovich's Eighth Quartet--another one of my personal favourites. Unfortunately, the rest of the disc is just filler. The stuff on the other double CD is more interesting, and includes John Cage's String Quartet in Four Parts--in my opinion, his best.

I thought at first that Black Angels would make good ritual music, but I was disappointed: the quiet sections are too quiet. Also, from my perspective, Crumb is a bit of a one-hit wonder. None of his other works have resonated with me the way Black Angels has.
An illusion--with intelligence! A malignant vision, with a will of pure evil!

#74839 - 01/24/13 05:06 PM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: Goliath]
Oxus Offline

Registered: 04/15/10
Posts: 549
Here's some extra info along the same lines:
During the Middle Ages in Western music the tritone was classified as a dissonant interval and avoided at all cost during composition. If you’ve heard the opening notes from the band Black Sabbath’s self titled song “Black Sabbath” then you’ve heard this demonic interval.

Towards the end of the Renaissance era the tritone was nicknamed diabolus en musica meaning “the devil in music” by 1733 the phrase transformed into “mi against fa” (Satan in music). Later on during the Baroque and Classical eras this diabolical interval became perfectly acceptable in composition as another color on the composer’s pallet.

But prior to its acceptance this interval was thought to be able to invoke devils & demons and the sort. To this day the interval suggests to many of us a certain archetypal evil sound, no doubt due to its associations and what have you.

For those musically inclined this interval is the flatted 5th (b5). The tritone would be C1 Gb C2. CDEF(Gb)GABC 1234(b5)5678 of a diatonic C major scale.

As a stand alone interval it is dark and ominous, but when included in certain other chordal structures the b5th becomes more of an augmented sound implying movement.

Interesting is that the b5th is the note exactly in the center of the chromatic scale, but it is hidden (occult?) it is also at center stage between the octaves of the diatonic scale.

#74849 - 01/25/13 12:17 AM Re: The Devil and Classical Music [Re: Oxus]
Goliath Offline

Registered: 09/26/10
Posts: 93
^I envy your knowledge of music theory--and practice. Though I know a fair amount of music history, I have no actual musical education or training: as a result, though I love classical music, I often find myself unable to discuss it at anything but the most basic level.

In regard to the "Devil's Trill" sonata, mentioned in the OP:

This is actually a very popular work, and anyone who's interested can hear numerous versions on YouTube. Unfortunately, it completely overshadows the rest of Tartini's compositions nowadays.

My own favourite version is the first one I heard, on the oldest surviving CD in my collection. This was performed by Andrew Manze, a Baroque specialist, and was recorded on a disc entitled simply The Devil's Sonata.

What makes Manze's version so distinctive is that he plays it unaccompanied, dispensing with most of the continuo. As Manze explains in the liner notes, Tartini himself wrote that he provided a bass part purely for convention's sake: "I play them without bass and this is my true intention." And Manze himself asks, rhetorically: "Did not the Devil fiddle alone? And when Tartini leaped up and started scraping, was there really a continuo team in the bedroom?"

Manze's version can be heard here:

I - Largo
II - Allegro
III - Andante/Allegro/Adagio

In regard to 3456789's post--that was an interesting, if somewhat random list, with a lot of good stuff. But it didn't include what may be the most famous Satanic opera aria of them all--"Le Veau d'Or" ("The Golden Calf") from Gounod's Faust, sung by Mephistopheles himself.

Satan conduit le bal!
An illusion--with intelligence! A malignant vision, with a will of pure evil!

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