Tartini's letter to Maddalena Lombardini

November 4, 2021, 11:42 AM · Hi,

a few days ago I stubbled upon Tartini's letter to Maddalena Lombardini. It can be found on IMSLP. Tartini gave great instructions and for the most part I find his explanations comprehensible. However I have some doubt about the “half-shift” he mentions in the second part when he talks about the left hand.

As far as I can make out, he wants the student to play any familiar score while resting in half-position. Later the student is to play the same tune in first, second, third, fourth position and so on. Makes sense...What I don´t understand is why he gives instructions to keep the first finger on the note G on the first (ie lowest) string in half position, since that would be the g sharp, unless the finger rests on the nut. Also I don't understand why the student is apparently allowed to leave the half-position when he or she is supposed to play an A on the E-Sting. That would not be a problem in half-position.

Have I misunderstood that passage?

By the way, I was surprised that Tartini uses names for the notes that seem to be related to the medieval hexachordal system. An A for example is called „Alamire“...

Replies (5)

November 4, 2021, 2:23 PM · Half shift is second position. From memory Tartini encourages practice of any simple passage in all positions.
Wonderful source of information - especially in the messa di voce.
Edited: November 5, 2021, 3:20 AM · Leopold Mozart also uses the term half-shift to mean 2nd. position. I think it comes from the fact that 3rd was really the only shift in the day (unless you were a show-off). I see the translation is Charles Burney - that's interesting in itself.
November 5, 2021, 9:11 AM · "What I don´t understand is why he gives instructions to keep the first finger on the note G on the first (ie lowest) string in half position, since that would be the g sharp"

Presumably by "first", he means the E string, then?

November 5, 2021, 9:15 AM · Good heavens-- that was silly of me. I'd been thinking from the G on up, whereas every composer who puts the indication in a part writes Sul I to mean the E string.
November 5, 2021, 9:18 AM · Correct. I'm not sure when IV meaning G string became standardised. They were often called basso, tenore, canto, cantino. Vivaldi uses Canto and Cantino in the first movement of Summer to specify strings - most people ignore that instruction I think out of confusion even though it's pretty clear.


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