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Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690-1768)
Overtures & Concerti - Volume 2
Overture I in B flat [12:33]
Sonata in g minor, op. 1,1 [16:11]
Concerto for violin, strings and bc in D [05:35]
Sonata V in C [1716] [09:47]
Overture III in B flat [12:04]
L'Arte dell'Arco / Federico Guglielmo (violin)
rec. 2018, Gabinetto di Lettura, Este (Pd), Italy
CPO 555 220-2 SACD [56:22]

There are not that many composers from the first half of the 18th century, about whom so many anecdotes have come down to us than Francesco Maria Veracini. They give the impression that he was extremely aware of his qualities, and considered himself the best violinist of his time. It seems that he was mainly driven by his rivalry with Antonio Vivaldi, no mean talent on the violin.

Veracini led an eventful life, which brought him to several towns in Italy, but also abroad, as far as London and Dresden. His virtuosity was without doubt, but from a stylistic point of view his playing did not meet universal approval. The French writer Charles de Brosses heard him play in Florence in 1739 and judged that his playing was "lacking a little in grace". Charles Burney stated that he produced "a tone so loud and clear, that it could be distinctly heard through the most numerous band of a church or theatre". Whether that was meant as a compliment or rather a point of criticism is left to the reader.

The extant oeuvre of Veracini is not that large. That is mainly the result of the loss of a considerable part of his output. It is known that he wrote quite some vocal music, but especially in this department only a little has come down to us: none of his oratorios have survived, and only a few operas have been preserved. This leaves us with his instrumental music, of which the present disc offers some specimens.

The most remarkable pieces are the two overtures. The fact that French composers of the early 18th century felt increasingly attracted to the Italian style, is well documented. The influence of the French style on Italian music is far less known. These overtures bear witness to that influence. They are part of a set of six, which may have been written in Venice. Federico Guglielmi, in his liner-notes, suggests that they may have been performed in Dresden. This certainly was the kind of music the court chapel was used to play, but Reinhard Goebel, who with his ensemble Musica antiqua Köln was responsible for the first recording of the entire set, considers it unlikely that they were performed there. Whatever is the case, these pieces are quite remarkable. They open with an ouverture in the common ABABA form, the A section in dotted rhythm, and the B section fugal. It is followed by four movements, mostly dances, but both Overtures include a movement with the indication allegro. In the Overture III this particular movement includes solo parts for two principal violins. As I have no access to the scores and Giglielmo does not specify Veracini's scoring, I don't know if the participation of two oboes and a bassoon has been specified by the composer. They are involved here, and the oboes largely play colla parte with the violins, as was common practice in France.

The Concerto in D seems to be the only solo concerto by Veracini that has been preserved. Whether he has written more is not known. This particular concerto is part of a collection of six by various composers, published in Amsterdam around 1717. Among the other composers are Torelli and Vivaldi, and this concerto has also been attributed to the latter and included in the appendix of Peter Ryom's catalogue of Vivaldi's works. It is a very short piece in three movements. It follows the Vivaldian model, but the ripieno sections are very short. Nearly the entire piece consists of solos for the violin.

The sonatas are from two different collections. The Sonata in C is from a set of twelve sonatas for recorder or violin which Veracini published in 1716 and dedicated to Friedrich August, Crown Prince of Saxonia. It is in the common layout of four movements, following the model of Corelli. In comparison, the Sonata in G is technically more demanding and more extravagant, especially the last movement, called Postiglione, which explains the posthorn figures. This sonata is from a collection of twelve specifically intended for the violin. It came from the press in 1721 in Dresden as Veracini's Op. 1. It is in five movements, and opens with an ouverture in French style. The second movement includes some chromaticism. The third movement is called Paesana, referring to a country-dance. The fourth is a menuet. Here the influence of Corelli is hardly noticeable.

Thirteen years ago, L'Arte dell'Arco recorded its first programme of music by Veracini. It's a shame that it has taken so long for a sequel to be produced. For some reasons Veracini's music is not that often performed and recorded, and although the three collections from which most of the programme has been taken, are available in other recordings, this disc is a welcome addition to the catalogue. Goebel's recording of the Overtures may not be available anymore, and the Concerto in D seems to be a first recording. Federico Guglielmo is an excellent violinist, who with his ensemble has produced a number of fine recordings of music by Vivaldi for Brilliant Classics. Here he and his colleagues show their class again in outstanding performances of these pieces by Veracini. The miking is a bit too close to my taste, and a little more space had not been amiss. However, this is definitely better than a reverberant church.

This disc offers the perfect opportunity to get an impression of Veracini's oeuvre.

Johan van Veen

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