At a time when virtuoso players were beginning to wow their listeners with thrilling acrobatics and tricks, Nardini was a voice of moderation and genuineness. Born in Livorno, Nardini showed such prodigious talent that he was accepted as a student of Giuseppe (“Devil’s Trill”) Tartini at the age of 12. He quickly became Tartini’s prize pupil. Nardini travelled extensively, sometimes taking a position with a princely orchestra, but also giving private and public concerts. Finally, he returned to his own country, where he was appointed to the Tuscan Grand Ducal chapel in Florence as solo violinist in 1768, but soon became its music director. Nardini concertized until the 1790s, often at royal or princely residences.
His playing as well as his compositions exhibited passion and sensitivity rather than empty display. The hyper-critical violinist, Leopold Mozart (father of Wolfgang Amadeus) even grudgingly gave him backhanded compliments. “The beauty, purity, and equality of his tone, and the tastefulness of his cantabile playing, cannot be surpassed; but he does not execute great difficulties. His compositions are marked by vivacity, grace, and sweet sentimentality, but he has neither the depth of feeling, the grand pathos, nor the concentrated energy of his master Tartini.”
Nardini composed both orchestral and chamber works. For the violin, he published 25 sonatas and about ten concertos. The earliest concertos were composed around 1760, and six were published in 1764 as Opus 1. Biographer Maria Teresa Dellaborra tells us that Nardini’s listeners tended to disagree with Leopold Mozart: “According to Schubart, he managed to move even the most insensitive listeners by the deep emotions expressed so effortlessly and naturally. His compositions, accordingly, combine two traits typical of the Italian style in the 18th century: cantabile and passionate writing in slow movements and fluency in fast ones.”
You be the judge!