Veracini Violin Sonatas
I confess that, up to now, I’ve not rated Veracini’s music especially highly. An expert, well-trained composer, certainly, but he seems content to employ a post-Corelli lingua franca, while contemporaries such as Vivaldi and Tartini were producing more innovative and individual music. By all accounts, Veracini was a wonderful violinist but as a person somewhat difficult and eccentric. Riccardo Minasi is well able to produce the necessary high virtuosity, and though there’s nothing eccentric about his style, his ability to improvise elaborate, graceful, occasionally extravagant decorations gives these accounts a fascinatingly personal character, suggesting how the 18th-century maestro might have appeared to his audience.
It’s not just a question of ornaments, either. Helped by his large continuo group, providing imaginatively varied backing, Minasi points up the particular sound world and expressive concerns of each sonata. In Op 1 No 7 in A major he produces a bright, penetrating tone to emphasise the music’s extrovert brilliance. In the much simpler D minor “Vienna” sonata, on the other hand, the uncomplicated, folk-style melodies – in character collective rather than solo-like – are often doubled by plucked continuo, an effect that’s expressively appropriate as well as being attractive and unusual. Only in the final sonata from Op 2 did I feel the interpretation was slightly overdrawn; for example, the languid start of the first-movement Passagallo seems affected, with its slow tempo and continual hesitations. It’s still a splendid performance, though, and I’m grateful to Musica Antiqua Roma for kindling in me (and I hope in you) a new interest in Veracini.