Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690 - 1768)
Overture VI in G minor (1716) [10.28]
Sonata VI in A minor (1716) [8.43]
Violin Concerto in A major (1719) [9.02]
Sonata II in A major (1721) [10.44]
Overture II in F major (1716) [20.04]
Federico Guglielmo (solo violin and direction)
L'Arte dell'Arco
rec. Chiesa di S. M. Annunziata, Sovizzo, 8-10 November 2005
CPO 777 302-2 [59.28] 

Florentine violinist/composer Francesco Maria Veracini was originally trained by his Uncle Agostino Veracini, himself a violinist. By his early twenties he was already regarded as an exceptional virtuoso. He moved to Venice, presumably to provide himself with more opportunities. Veracini made his first trip to London in 1714, marking the beginning of his long years of travelling. Though an esteemed virtuoso, Veracini wasn't an easy person to get on with; Charles Burney described him as capo pazzo (a madman) and others commented on his arrogance and eccentricity. His rivalry with and jealousy of other virtuosi contributed to problems during an extended stay in Dresden and in 1722 he threw himself from a window, apparently in a fit of madness, and broke his leg.

He returned to Florence and composed sacred music and a number of oratorios, now lost. At this period it seems that Locatelli studied with Veracini. By 1733 he was on the move again, to London again where he composed operas for the Opera of the Nobility (the company which was rival to Handel's) and met with some success. He made a number of return visits to London, the final in 1745. He seems to have reappeared in Italy in the 1750s when he returned to Florence where he remained until his death.

This disc, from L'Arte dell'Arco presents a selection of Veracini's pieces, mixing two of his Overtures, two of his Sonatas and one of his violin concertos. It is promised as volume 1 of a series devoted to Veracini's Overtures and Concerti.

The six Overtures date from around 1716 and survive in a manuscript in Venice. Both Overtures are attractive, lively pieces. The Overture VI in G minor is in four movements and Overture II in F major in six movements, with a structure similar to that of a French overture. Both pieces include much brilliant woodwind writing, but that in Overture VI is probably the most virtuosic. The overtures are finely played by L'Arte dell'Arco, giving infectiously vivid performances.

The Sonata VI in A minor comes from an anthology of sonatas - for violin or flute and basso continuo - which Veracini published in Dresden in 1716 and dedicated to Friedrich August of Saxony. It was these which attracted the Prince's attention and caused Veracini to enter the Prince's service. The Sonata VI in A major comes from a later anthology published in Dresden in 1721. These pieces are smaller in scale than the overtures, but give violinist Federico Guglielmo plenty of scope for demonstrating his fine technique.

The centre-piece of the record is the Violin Concerto in A major, taken from a collection of Concerti a Cinque published in Amsterdam in 1719. I must confess that I was slightly disappointed in this piece. The orchestral writing is nowhere near as brilliant as in the overtures and the orchestra is definitely subservient to the violin, in fact the piece is rather closer in feel to the sonatas than the two overtures. That said, Guglielmo brilliantly brings to life the bravura solo writing. There is an element of virtuoso note-spinning, but Guglielmo plays so elegantly that he does convince.

Period performance group L'Arte dell'Arco were founded by Federico Guglielmo in 1994 and specialise in the music of the Venetian republic. On this disc they number some 18 players.

The booklet includes an informative note about Veracini and his music.

There seems to be a welcome revival of interest in the music of the 18th century Italian violin virtuosi. This disc makes a strong case for Veracini's music. I look forward to further volumes.

Robert Hugill