Gavinies, Pierre

About 1726-1800

Eminent French violinist, called by Viotti "the French Tartini." Was born at Bordeaux, the son of a violinmaker. He was chiefly self-taught, but learned much from hearing the great Italian violinists on their tours through France. He made his debut in 1741 at one of the Concerts Spirituels, and settled in Paris as a teacher and concert player; in the latter capacity he confirmed the highly favorable impression made at his first appearance, and was regarded by contemporaries as one of the great violinists. He was director of the Concert Spiritual from its reorganization by Gossec in 1773, and on the foundation of the Paris Conservatory was appointed professor of violin, and here formed many noted pupils. He is regarded in France as the founder of the French school of violin-playing. While by no means lacking on the expressive side, his playing displayed great virtuosity, and his compositions, especially, indicate a greater command of technique than those of Tartini, although inferior in other respects. Les Vingt-quatres Matinees, twentyfour studies for violin in all keys, his most noted work, contains difficulties of execution that are said to be a strain on the possibilities of the violin itself, though it is asserted that Gavinies, even as an old man, played these very passages with perfect ease. His other works comprise six concertos and six sonatas for violin and bass; three sonatas for violin solo; six sonatas for two violins, the Romance de Gavinies, long popular in France; and a comic opera, Le Pretendu, performed at the Comedie Italieune, 1760.