This article explores the nexus between Giuseppe Tartini's concertos for violin and orchestra, written for the Franciscan Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, and the devotion to this Saint's tongue, still preserved as a relic. Anthony's tongue, hagiographers write, was the instrument of a rhetoric that transcended verbal signification, able to move people of different languages and even animals. Soon, the tongue of Saint Anthony became a powerful symbol of universal language. In the eighteenth century, the Catholic Church, and especially the followers of Saint Anthony, revitalized their global mission to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers. Commissioning orchestral church music was part of this strategy. Like Anthony's preaching, Tartini's music was informed by the utopian goal to reach out to a pluralist community. His music and ideas attracted the attention of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Charles Burney, both engaged in contemporary debates on the quest for universality of music in a multicultural world. Newly discovered evidence sheds light on the liturgical context of Tartini's violin concertos, as well as on religious rituals of music making and listening that left long-lasting traces of sacrality in the secular rites of production and consumption of instrumental music.
Tartini and the Tongue of Saint Anthony
Pierpaolo Polzonetti is Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame. His book Italian Opera in the Age of the American Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2011) received the Lockwood Award, and his article on Mozart's Così fan tutte (Cambridge Opera Journal, 2002) received the Einstein Award. His first book, Giuseppe Tartini e la musica secondo natura (LIM, 2001), won the ‘Premio Latina.’ His work has been funded by the NEH, the ACLS, and the Earhart Foundation. He is writing a book on Opera & Food.
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Pierpaolo Polzonetti; Tartini and the Tongue of Saint Anthony. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 August 2014; 67 (2): 429–486. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2014.67.2.429
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