Il Diavolo by Accademia Arcadia

Many people know the story of the Devil’s Trill Sonata by Tartini. How he dreamed one night he made a pact with the devil, who took up Tartini’s violin and played ‘a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such great art and intelligence as [he] had never even conceived in [his] boldest flights of fancy’. Upon waking, he jumped out of bed and, grabbing hold of his violin, tried to replicate this fiendish sonata. The Accademia Arcadia seize this piece, still considered difficult today, with both hands. Along with other baroque works, they present it in this lovely album of early eighteenth-century trio sonatas (if you ignore the delightful little theme and variations at the end).

One of the great aspects of this album is the fact that two of the musicians are locals who work hard at furthering the classical music culture in Australia, while the third (virtuosic violinist Davide Monti) is a frequent visitor who brings a wealth of knowledge to our shores. The founder of Arcadia, Jacqueline Ogeil, also had a Christofori piano made for her (one of the first examples of a pianoforte and the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere) and founded the extremely popular Woodend Winter Arts Festival. Together with Monti and Josephine Vains on continuo cello, they sound like three friends who, for the sheer thrill of playing music, came together to create this recording.

What I particularly loved was the very final track: Monti on solo violin doing baroque variations on what was a whistled tune by one of the supporters of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival, Peter McGrath. Monti heard it and as a joke notated it and improvised upon it. Titled ‘Free Spirit’, I feel it brings the best of the traditional Australian folk tune and the strait-laced baroque style together in a short homage to both genres.

Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.