A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Gaviniés, Pierre
GAVINIÉS, Pierre, an eminent French violin-player. According to some authorities he was born at Bourdeaux in 1728, while others give Paris and the year 1726. [App. p.646 "The correct place and date of birth are probably Bordeaux and May 26, 1726. (Paloschi.)"] His instructors are equally unknown, but it is assumed that he was self-taught, forming his style chiefly after the great Italian violinists, who were then much in the habit of travelling in France. He was still a boy when he made his first successful appearance at the Concert spirituel in 1741, and after this to the end of his life he but rarely left Paris, where he soon came to be considered as the best living violinist, and was a great favourite in fashionable circles. Contemporary writers attribute to him all the qualities of a really great performer—wonderful execution, a great tone, spirit and feeling. His fiery temperament at one time got him into considerable trouble: he became involved in a liaison with a lady of the court, and on being detected had to fly from Paris, but was captured and imprisoned for a year. This experience effectually sobered him, and we are assured that later in life he was as much esteemed for his social virtues as for his artistic gifts. During his imprisonment he composed a piece which, under the name of 'Romance de Gaviniés' for a long time enjoyed considerable popularity in France, and, according to Fétis, used to move the hearers to tears, when performed by the composer. [App. p.646 "he directed the Concert Spirituel from 1773 to 1777."] On the foundation of the Conservatoire in 1794, Gaviniés was appointed to a professorship of the violin. He died at Paris in 1800 [App. p.646 "Sept. 9"].
In France Gaviniés is generally considered the founder of the great French school of violinists. This is true in one sense, as he was the first professor of the violin at the Conservatoire, but with such a predecessor as Leclair, the title appears at least disputable. Viotti is said to have spoken of him as the French Tartini. But, although there can be no doubt that Gaviniés did more than any one before him towards transplanting into France the true and earnest style of the great Italian school of violin-playing, it is impossible to rank him in any way with Tartini as a composer for the violin or even as a performer. His works, while not devoid of a certain pathetic dignity, do not shew an individual original style, and are in every respect inferior to Tartini's masterpieces. They are on the whole rather dry and laboured. On the other hand it must be granted that they indicate considerable advance in technical execution. His most celebrated work, 'Les vingt-quatres Matinées,' surpasses in difficulty anything ever written by Tartini, and as we are assured that Gaviniés used to play them even in his old age with the greatest perfection, we must assume him to have possessed an eminent execution. But it cannot be denied that his manner of writing for the violin, and the peculiar class of difficulties which his studies contain, show a tendency to go beyond the natural resources of the instrument—in fact, a tendency to exaggeration, such as invariably makes its appearance after a classical period in any art, and such as, in the art of violin playing in particular, is represented towards the end of the last century by the masters who lived after Tartini and before Viotti. It is for this reason that Gaviniés' 'Matinées' cannot be ranked with the classical studies of Rode, Kreutzer, and Fiorillo. This however does not preclude their being both of interest and use to advanced students.Capron, Robineau, and Le Duc aîné, are the best known of Gaviniés' numerous pupils. Besides the 'Matinées' he published 6 Concertos for the Violin, 2 sets of Sonatas for Violin and Bass (some of which have been recently republished by Alard and David), 3 Sonatas for Violin Solo (one of them entitled 'Le Tombeau de Gaviniés'). He also composed an opera which was played at the Comédie-Italienne in 1760.
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