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Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690-1768)

Sonate accademiche, Op.2 (1744)

Sonata No. 1 in D major [19:07]
Sonata No. 2 in B flat major [15:52]
Sonata No. 3 in G major [15:23]
Sonata No. 4 in F major [14:23]
Sonata No. 5 in G minor [15:24]
Sonata No. 6 in A major [20:09]
Sonata No. 7 in D minor [11:03]
Sonata No. 8 in E minor [10:53]
Sonata No. 9 in A major [10:04]
Sonata No. 10 in F major [10:08]
Sonata No. 11 in E major [17:18]
Sonata No. 12 in D minor [14:38]
The Locatelli Trio: Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin); Richard Tunnicliffe (cello); Paul Nicholson (harpsichord, organ)
rec. 25-30 June, 1993, Westdeutschen Runfunk, Cologne
HYPERION CDS 44241/3 [3 CDs: 65:08 + 58:00 + 52:34]

 


 

 

The years surrounding the publication of these Sonate accademiche in 1744 were busy and difficult ones for Veracini. In January of 1744 his opera Rosalinda – his fourth opera – opened in London. The same year saw a London performance of his L’errore di Salomone - of which nothing appears to survive. As well as working in the opera house, he performed with some frequency in Hickford’s Room in Brewer Street, the famous concert room which was at the height of its reputation in this decade. In 1745 Veracini, now some fifty-five years old and described by Burney as “in years”, decided to return to Italy. But the ship on which he was travelling was wrecked. Mary Gray White, in Music and Letters, Vol. 53, 1972, quotes from an anonymous manuscript annotation to be found in a copy of the Op. 2 sonatas, now in The Hague:-

“This Veracini was the best Violin player of his time; and so vain of his superiority, as frequently to say there was but one God and one Veracini. He resided a while in England, and in his passage home was shipwrecked and narrowly escaped with his life. He had with him his two famous Stainer violins reckoned the best in the world which he named St. Peter and St. Paul but their saintship could not prevent there going to the bottom. He was particularly famous for the uncommon strength and clearness of his tone”.

Before this serious misadventure, the Sonate accademiche – the title perhaps meant to imply a claim that they are particularly suitable for performance in academies of music, where an audience of connoisseurs might be expected? – were published “per l’Autore” in Florence and London, with an engraved portrait from a painting by Ferdinand Richter.

 

The music of these sonatas is an odd – but fascinating  - mixture of the innovative and idiosyncratic on the one hand and, on the other, of elements which would probably have struck contemporaries as slightly old-fashioned, with their clear reminiscences of Corelli. There’s an abundance of ideas and plenty of varied rhythms. The stylistic ‘mix’ may, in part, be the result of Veracini’s having brought together, for publication, music written at very different periods. The menuet in no.4 carries the date of 1711, but much of the music was surely written long after that. Veracini was widely travelled and his encounters with a wide range of European music are represented in the eclecticism of these sonatas. So, for example, no.9 closes with a ‘Scozzese’, in fact a decorated treatment of the Scottish tune ‘Tweed side’. Its inclusion surely relates to Rosalinda, in which Scottish melodies were incorporated, not entirely successfully, according to Burney, who dryly observes that “few of the North Britons, or admirers of this national and natural Music, frequent the opera, or mean to give half a guinea to hear a Scots tune, which perhaps their cook-maid Peggy can sing better than any foreigner”. Elsewhere in these op.2 sonatas we find both an ‘aria Schiavona’ (Slavonic air) and a ‘polonese’, reminders that Veracini had spent a number of years in Germany and, indeed, that his wife (who died in 1735) was Polish.

 

Drawing on work from various periods of his career, and on a variety of musical traditions, to which is added some of Veracini’s characteristic idiosyncrasy, the mixture produces some exhilarating music. There are dance movements; there are fugues (and inverted fugues); there are contrapuntal capriccio movements, with unexpected twists and turns; there are lyrical slow movements (in some of which the tempi adopted here may perhaps be a little on the quick side for some tastes); there is some richly chromatic writing; there are some unexpected dissonances; above all, there is a sense of great vitality and humanity.

 

When this music is played with the energy, enthusiasm and judgement that the Locatelli Trio (now renamed Convivium) bring to it, there is a great deal to enjoy and to learn from. Wallfisch is a violinist of great musicianship, steeped in knowledge of period performance practice and able to put that knowledge to unpedantic use in playing full of subtle dynamic shadings and well-judged use of decoration and rubato. Tunnicliffe and Nichiolson make an admirable continuo team, and the whole benefits from a crystal clear recorded sound. This is Baroque chamber music of a high order.

 

Glyn Pursglove

 

 


 


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