Maria Theresia von Paradis

Sicilienne, by Maria Theresia von Paradis

Excerpt from Devil's Trill by Gerald Elias


"This particular Sicilienne was not nearly as dramatic or technically difficult as the one that begins Tartini's “Devil's Trill” Sonata. Rather, it had an extreme simplicity and poignancy hovering undecidedly between happiness and sadness, transformed by degree from moment to moment. It was the angel compared to Tartini’s devil. Jacobus had once read a description of such music as “smiling through tears.” That the composer had suffered through the obstacles of blindness, and of being a female composer in a man's world heightened, one’s appreciation of the sublime resignation of the music."


Music from Devil's Trill
Maria Theresia von Paradis - Sicilenne

Sicilenne, by Maria Theresia von Paradis
performed by Gerald Elias and Jason Hardink



Maria Theresia von Paradis is not a common name in today’s concert halls, but in her day she was a widely heard and respected composer, held in high esteem by the Mozart family and indeed by much of Europe.  Not only was von Paradis one of the few female composers to have achieved a high level of distinction, she also happened to have been blind from childhood.  Their shared affliction gives Daniel Jacobus, who has fought adversity throughout his life, a particular respect for von Paradis’s accomplishments.

Secondly, Sicilenne exemplifies the kind of music—simple and elegant, free of superficial razzle-dazzle—that Jacobus considers the true test for a real musician.  By extension, anyone who passes that test would find himself, or herself, high up in Jacobus’s good graces.

Sadly for us, almost all the music by von Paradis—operas, songs, chamber music—has been lost.  It is even thought that the Sicilienne, which provides an important clue in the unlocking of the mystery of the stolen “Piccolino” Stradivarius, might have been composed by someone else.  Regardless, Sicilenne is music that exudes, quiet grace and fragile beauty.