Born in Florence on 1 February 1690, Francesco Veracini is considered one of the great violin composers in eighteenth century Italy. He played so impressively that he intimidated even virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini. Notoriously arrogant, perhaps even a shade insane, Veracini was nevertheless famous throughout Europe both for his performances and compositions. Although he was an instrumentalist, about half of his output is vocal, and for a while he was Handel's great rival as an opera composer in London. After spending his youth in Florence, he established himself in Venice in 1711. There he played in various church orchestras, and in 1712 a performance of his so impressed Tartini that the latter withdrew for a while to study better the use of the bow. In 1714 Veracini performed in London, and the following year in Germany where, after further travels, he obtained a court position in Dresden in 1717 at an impressive salary.
In August 1722 he fell to the ground from a third-floor window, but how this happened remains something of a mystery. Whether it was a suicide attempt or a bungled murder no-one knows for sure, as Veracini's explanation is not lucid enough. He survived, but rumours of madness followed him on his subsequent journeys, including a period back in Italy, working as a violinist and composing oratorios and sacred works. The composer returned to London in 1733, where his popularity was immense, performing everywhere and having his operas produced at the 'Opera of the Nobility', Handel's chief rival theatre. Except for a brief period back in Italy, Veracini remained in London for many years. In 1750 though, he returned to Italy for good, working primarily as a church musician in Florence, mainly composing and conducting but also occasionally playing the violin into his seventies.
As a composer Veracini came to write concertos strongly influenced by Vivaldi's. On the other hand, his sonatas, in some ways, resemble those of Corelli, but often without the fugal elements. These pieces can also be considered as pointing a way to Tartini's virtuosic language. Veracini died in Florence on 31 October 1768, aged seventy-eight.
This third volume in CPO's ongoing cycle of Veracini's instrumental works has been long in coming, but the wait was not in vain. Indeed, the first volume was released fifteen years ago, and the second thirteen years after, but both garnered raving reviews, and this third instalment will no doubt continue to cement Veracini's stock as a composer of the first order.
The programme on this CD comprises two of the composer's most interesting sonatas from the collections published without an opus number in 1716 and from his opus 1 of 1721 respectively.
Listen — Veracini: Giga (Sonata VI in E minor)
(555 241-2 track 8, 0:00-0:57) ℗ 2021 Classic Produktion Osnabrück :
Coupled with these sonatas one finds Overtures Nos 4 and 5.
Listen — Veracini: Gigue (Overture V in B flat)
(555 241-2 track 3, 0:00-0:34) ℗ 2021 Classic Produktion Osnabrück :
This pairing is wholly ideal, because when Veracini's compositions are brought together in this way the various characteristics of his writing style come into clearer focus. The festive manner of the overtures, often shifting to a more lavish style of greater folk character, yields to a softer chamber musical stance in the sonatas, and with it to a clearer picture of Veracini's sophistication and contrapuntal acumen.
Listen — Veracini: Largo (Sonata III in D minor)
(555 241-2 track 11, 0:00-0:44) ℗ 2021 Classic Produktion Osnabrück :
The manuscripts of the six overtures are preserved in the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello in Venice, where Veracini presumably composed them in 1716 while residing there, but it is also possible that they enjoyed great success in both London and Dresden.
Listen — Veracini: Appoggiato (Overture IV in F)
(555 241-2 track 15, 2:36-3:07) ℗ 2021 Classic Produktion Osnabrück :
This is music that is as melodious as it is complex, with challenges aplenty, but Federico Guglielmo rises to the occasion with an awareness that is enthusiastically sensitive, filling every note and phrase with deep insight and technical prowess. L'Arte dell'Arco respond with heartfelt vigour, and their support is consistently alert to the changing tempi. A marvellous addition to the Veracini discography in glorious sound quality and detailed annotations. I do hope the next volume will not take so long to make its bow. Strongly recommended.
Copyright © 24 January 2023