ne of Thomas Jefferson's favorite compositions was the Sonata for Violin and Continuo, Opus 5, written by the famous Italian composer, Archangelo Corelli (1653-1713) in 1700. It consisted of a set of twenty variations on a graceful old Spanish tune called (in Italian) La Follia — pronounced la fo-LEE-ah, and meaning something like "A Madness," presumably a musical definition of love.
The well-thumbed and copiously annotated copy of the music in his library suggests that, at least prior to his wrist injury in 1786, Jefferson was capable of performing the difficult bowings required in many of the twenty elaborate variations of the simple theme.
Using a German-made instrument dating from the second half of the 18th century, as well as a modern violin such as Jefferson owned, violinist Samuel Taylor plays the theme and two of the variations from Corelli's composition. He also discusses and demonstrates several differences between the styles of playing typically used by fiddlers such as Pierre Cruzatte in the vernacular tradition, and cultivated-tradition violinists such as Thomas Jefferson.1