In 1903 Sir Alexander Mackenzie undertook a tour in Canada, conducting concerts in all tho chief towns, from Halifax, Nova. Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia. In honour of his visit no fewer than eleven new choral societies were organized, and the impetus given to choral singing throughout the Dominion was one of which the effects are still evident.
In the course of his travels a number of Canadian airs came to his knowledge, of which some are no doubt originally French Canadian. The first movement of his Rhapsody is founded on parts of three of these, one a children's song, and the other two French-Canadian tunes. In the slow movement can be heard also two Canadian airs; one is known as Bytown (the old name for Ottawa), the other called 'Un Canadien Errant.'
The best known of the three tunes in the last movement is one which has of itself become very popular here-'Alouette.' Before it there appears a snatch of tune taken from the song, 'A la claire fontaine,' and at the end there is the song which the Province of Quebec adopted as its own hymn.
Giuseppe Tartini, whose life and achievements are one of the milestones in the history of violin-playing, was one of the many musicians who were intended for other careers. His father, wealthy and ennobled, wished him to enter the priesthood, a career which had no attraction at all for the ardent and vivacious youth. Instead he obtained permission to study law, though all that we know of his legal studies is that he became proficient in the two arts of fencing and violin-playing. The former appears to have been so much the more lucrative that he thought of adopting it as a means of livelihood, while music would remain a diversion. His life was full of vicissitudes, and probably the tale of the composition of his famous 'Devil's Trill' is the best known incident in it.
He dreamed, so we are told, that he made a bargain with the Devil for his soul. Everything went as he would have it and the idea occurred to him to hand his violin to his new servant. To his intense astonishment the Devil played with consummate skill and energy, and with such beauty as surpassed the boldest nights of his imagination. Seizing his violin when he awoke he tried in vain to recapture the music he had heard, but the piece which he then composed 'The Devil's Sonata'-although the most famous that he left, was, according to himself, far below the one he heard in his dream.
He carried out improvements on the violin and especially on the bow, which were of great importance, and left a good deal of music which combines the quiet dignity of Corelli with a grace and charm, and a variety of expression, which wore all his own. He wrote also extensively on musical matters, and in one of the Italian Municipal Libraries alone there are twenty-five MSS. of his, dealing with theoretical subjects.
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