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Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690 - 1768): XII Sonate a violino solo e basso Op. 1 - Sonate I - VI

Enrico Casazza, violin; Francesco Ferrarini, cello; Roberto Loreggian, harpsichord

rec: July 2002, Padua, Chiesa della SS. Trinità
Tactus - TC 692201 (© 2005) (67'36")

Sonata I in g, op. 1,1; Sonata II in a minor, op. 1,2; Sonata III in b minor, op. 1,3; Sonata IV in c minor, op. 1,4; Sonata V in d minor, op. 1,5; Sonata VI in e minor, op. 1,6

In the early 18th century Francesco Maria Veracini was considered one of Italy's most important and brilliant violinists. But he has gone down in history first and foremost as an eccentric and rather arrogant personality. Famous is what Charles Burney wrote about the difference between Tartini (two years Veracini's junior) and Veracini: "Tartini was so humble and timid, that he was never happy but in obscurity; while Veracini was so foolishly vain-glorious as frequently to boast that there was but one God, and one Veracini." There are enough reasons to believe Burney wasn't exaggerating in calling Veracini arrogant. He named his two violins St Peter and St Paul, and wasn't afraid of 'improving' Corelli's Sonatas opus 5. And as in 1722, living in Dresden at the time, he fell out of a window, he claimed this was an attempt to kill him out of jealousy, although it is generally assumed he tried to commit suicide, being in a state of depression.

Not that there wasn't any reason to be jealous. When he came to Dresden in 1717 to become part of the musical establishment he was considerably better paid than brilliant musicians and composers like Pisendel, Pezold and Zelenka. At that time he already had made his name. He had played in several cities in Italy, in particular Venice and Florence, and travelled abroad, performing during the intervals of operas at the King's Theatre in London in 1714 and spending some time at the court of the Elector Palatine of the Rhine, Johann Wilhelm, in Düsseldorf.

Among Veracini's most important works are his six Overtures, which were not published, but probably composed in 1716. It is assumed these were the main reason Veracini was invited to Dresden. Here the first set of sonatas for violin and basso continuo was published in 1721, the first six of which are played on this disc. It was published as his opus 1, although in 1716 a set of 12 sonatas for recorder and basso continuo had been printed.

Whereas Veracini was known for the virtuosity of his playing, the violin sonatas played here are rather modest in that respect. The set is divided into six sonate da chiesa and six sonate da camera. On this disc the Sonatas I and VI are of the first, the Sonatas II to V of the second category. The latter usually contain four movements (only Sonata II has five), and start with a Preludio.

The Sonata I opens with a French overture, probably under the influence of the French taste which was dominant in Dresden. Perhaps Veracini had also become acquainted with the German stylus fantasticus during his time in Dresden. In particular the last movement of the first sonata reminds me of the violin music written by representatives of the German violin school in the second half of the 17th century.

I am generally very pleased with the performances on this disc. Enrico Casazza is a very good player, who captures the character of these sonatas well, and also exploits the contrasts between and within the movements convincingly. Only now and then I had liked him to play with a little more boldness, for example in the overture of the first sonata, where the contrasts could have been stronger and more pronounced.

Some highlights are the sarabanda of the Sonata IV, which is one of the most expressive movements on this disc, as well as the allegro which follows it. And then there is the Sonata VI, with a beautiful pastorale and a closing giga, which is dominated by echo effects. The tempo choices are very satisfying, for example in the preludio of the Sonata V, which is marked 'andante'. Casazza rightly does't interpret it as a slow movement, but rather as just a little slower than allegro.

To sum up: this is fine music, very well played by Enrico Casazza, with outstanding support from Francesco Ferrarini and Roberto Loreggian. Let us hope the remaining six sonatas shall be released in due course.

Johan van Veen (© 2008)

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