Notes and Editorial Reviews
This disc makes a strong case for Veracini's music.
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, MusicWeb International
Overture VI in g. Sonata VI in a. Violin Concerto in A. Sonata VII in A. Overture II in F
Federico Guglielmo, vn/cond; L’Arte dell’Arco
CPO 777 302-2 (59:28)
Are we finally going to get a complete recording of Veracini’s overtures and concertos? That would seem to be the case. Naxos began such a series in the 1990s, with Alberto Martini and the Accademia I Filarmonici, but it appears to have stalled after the second volume. Now cpo has issued
Overtures and Concertos, Vol. 1
with Federico Guglielmo and the group he founded in 1994, L’Arte dell’Arco. As two of the five selections on the album are from the composer’s various published collections of violin sonatas, perhaps we should include them as well among expected future content. We can take heart in any case from this start of a series devoted to works by the violinist-composer, whose harmonic and contrapuntal capriciousness should make him as popular with today’s audiences as he was controversial with contemporaneous ones.
The selections themselves date from the early part of Veracini’s lengthy and distinguished career. The Sonata VI in A Minor was composed in 1716 in Venice, and was written under the dual influence of Corelli and the emerging
mode. From the perspective of his subsequent career, however, it’s interesting to note the introduction of supporting contrapuntal elements in the final pair of movements. The overtures are part of a set of six preserved in manuscript that supposedly all date from the same period, though they demonstrate an internal stylistic disparity. Of the two included on this album, that in F Major is largely homophonic, though with a quasi-French overture and a
sarabande, while the G-Minor Overture emphasizes contrapuntal procedures in its fast movements, and concludes with a curiously mock-somber minuet
The Violin Concerto in A Major was published in Amsterdam two to three years later, while Veracini was pursuing his contentious career in Dresden. It displays both his intimate knowledge of Vivaldi’s compositional style, and his own great facility in performance. The Sonata VII in A Major, published in Dresden in 1721, shows the influence of the German composers at Prince Elector Friedrich August’s court, where Heinichen, Pisendel, and Zelenka, among others, composed, performed, and competed. Contrapuntal procedures are more prominent, especially in the concluding Allegro’s furious, toccata-like figurations.
The halted series with Martini/Accademia I Filarmonici (Naxos 8.553412; 8.553413) has already been mentioned, and it provides a moderate contrast with Guglielmo/L’Arte dell’Arco. Tempos are a shade more relaxed on Martini than Guglielmo, though both are reasonably varied, while avoiding extremes. Martini as soloist is a bit more flexible in his phrasing. He also employs some performance practices that are thought of as modern—such as taking the figurations in his initial cadenza entry into the concerto’s first movement slightly faster than the tempo established by the orchestra—though this is by no means an indication that the same couldn’t have held true during the Baroque. Guglielmo in general is more square to the bar throughout, though in the specific example above, he lengthens the first note of each figuration slightly and emphasizes it. His performance style also provides an instance in miniature of phrasing characteristics used by his small orchestra: While they lack the sheer heft of Martini’s group or the explosive “chuff” that Göebel/Musica Antiqua Cologne (Archiv 439 937; 447 644) bring to the beginning of many phrases in fast sections, L’Arte dell’Arco applies heavy accents tellingly to score its points.
Make no mistake, this orchestra seems lighter in timbre compared to the others. It lists 17 members, of whom eight are violinists, while only three (cello, violone, theorbo) provide bass support. The sound spread is thus particularly weighted to the bright side of the scale, more so than in Musica Antiqua Cologne or Accademia I Filarmonici. This is no disadvantage, though it may strike listeners familiar with a different instrumental balance as initially peculiar. Guglielmo has no hesitancy in reducing the bass line still further for effect on occasion. In the aforementioned sarabande of the Overture II the bass line is given to the cello, alone, and the result is an almost chamber-like intimacy. Whether this is authentic or not can be argued for years to come, but it works in context.
Guglielmo’s technique is good, and he has a generous tone with plenty of color (including the occasional fast vibrato) to make for the occasional glancing note. His orchestra need not take lessons in blending or unison playing from anyone. Sound is well forward. If these performances were less fine, the draw of the series would still be there. As it is, this is an auspicious cornerstone to build upon.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Overture no 2 in F major by Francesco Maria Veracini
Written: 1716; Venice, Italy
Concerto in A major by Francesco Maria Veracini
Overture no 6 in B flat major by Francesco Maria Veracini
Written: 1716; Venice, Italy
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