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Tartini and the Tongue of Saint Anthony

Pierpaolo Polzonetti
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Vol. 67, No. 2 (Summer 2014), pp. 429-486
DOI: 10.1525/jams.2014.67.2.429
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/jams.2014.67.2.429
Page Count: 58
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Tartini and the Tongue of Saint Anthony
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Abstract

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.

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