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Francesco Maria Veracini

The composer and violinist Francesco Maria Veracini is perhaps best known for his Violin Sonatas.

Born in Florence on February 1, 1690, the son of a druggist, he was taught violin by his uncle Antonio , with whom he often appeared in concert. In Venice in 1711 Francesco Maria Veracini wrote a Concerto for eight instruments, played at the festivities for the Emperor Charles VI. There is a legend that when Giuseppe Tartini heard Veracini's playing in 1712, he was so impressed by it and so dissatisfied with his own skill, that he fled to Ancona and locked himself away in a room to practice.

In London in 1714 Veracini went to England and played instrumental solos between acts of operas played at the Queen's Theatre. Back in Venice in 1716, he wrote a set of Violin Sonatas dedicated to Prince Friedrich August, son of the elector of Saxony. The prince employed Veracini to play chamber music at his castle and to recruit Italian singers for the opera house at Dresden. In 1721 Veracini wrote another set of Violin Sonatas dedicated to the Prince. Unfortunately, there was animosity among the musicians of the court. Veracini was involved in 1722 in a staged quarrel with the composer Johann David Heinichen and the singer Senesino, which concluded with Veracini leaping out of a third story window. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Back to his native Florence in 1723, he played music in the church and wrote an oratorio. During this time he earned a bad reputation and the nickname "capo pazzo" ("crazy head").

Back in London in 1733, Veracini appeared in many concerts. There he wrote an opera, Adriano in Siria, considered too long by the music critics. In 1737, he wrote La Clemenza di Tito, on a libretto by Corri based on a story by Pietro Metastasio. (The Metastasio story was also the basis of the libretto Mazzola wrote for Mozart to set). In 1738 Veracini wrote his last opera, Rosalinda, based on Shakespeare's play As You Like It. In that opera Veracini included the well known ballad tune The Lass of Paties Mill. It was staged in London in 1744, the same year his oratorio L'errore di Salomono was staged, and its lack of success prompted Veracini to leave London.

After surviving a shipwreck on the English Channel, he returned to Florence, where he was appointed Kapellmeister of the chuches San Pancrazio and San Gaetano, the latter one at which his uncle had worked, focusing on church music. Though he mostly conducted in his later years, he still sometimes appeared as a violinist. He died on October 31, 1768.

In addition to Violin Sonatas, operas and oratorios, Veracini also wrote Violin Concertos, sonatas for recorder and basso continuo, and orchestral suites, called Overtures. The six Overtures were written for the Prince in Dresden. They are all either in F major or B-flat major, with only one being in G minor. The last one of these, in B-flat major is remarkable for concluding with an unison minuet. Veracini also wrote a treatise on counterpoint, Il trionfo della pratica musicale, and edited other composers' works, adding 'improvements' of his own, such as he did with the Opus 5 Violin Sonatas by Arcangelo Corelli.

Last updated: 02-10-2005 19:24:26
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55