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Briefly Noted: Veracini's Sonate Accademiche

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F. M. Veracini, Complete Sonate Accademiche, Trio Settecento

(released on May 12, 2015)
Cedille CDR 90000 155 | 186'48"
The versatile American violinist Rachel Barton Pine leads an early music ensemble, Trio Settecento, heard at Dumbarton Oaks in 2011. The latest in the group's series of recordings of mostly 18th-century music for the Cedille label is a complete three-CD set of the Sonate Accademiche by Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768). The twelve sonatas in this set, published as opus 2 in 1744, are a mixture of the sonata da camera and sonata da chiesa varieties, including both dance movements and more serious contrapuntal movements Veracini designated as Capriccios. Veracini's love of counterpoint, noted by Charles Burney among others, makes him an interesting composer to compare to his near-contemporary, J.S. Bach.

Fabio Biondi and Rinaldo Alessandrini have already recorded these works (sample on YouTube -- the inclusion of theorbo on that recording is something missed here), as have the Locatelli Trio. Where Biondi favored a smooth and rhythmically stable style, Barton Pine and her colleagues play just a notch faster in most cases, and with an ear toward a slightly volatile, unpredictable way of playing with the tempo. In a particularly inspired move, she adds Scottish folk fiddle ornamentation to the Scozzese movement of no. 9 and gives a folksy color to other movements based on tunes Veracini likely took from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, which he most certainly heard during his travels in Great Britain. Those Capriccio movements are probably the reason behind the identification of op. 2 as sonate accademiche, culminating in the studiously contrapuntal and excessively chromatic twelfth sonata (Passagallo, Capriccio Cromatico with two subjects, Adagio, and Ciaccona). The collection ends with a two-voice canon setting the text of a Latin epigram ("Ut relevet miserum fatum") for violin and cello set close together -- a rather Bach-like musical gesture.

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