Veracini, Francesco Maria
Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768), an Italian violinist and composer, was noted for his virtuosity on the instrument, and his violin sonatas feature many special effects for that instrument. He also wrote operas and songs for the voice, accounting for at least half of his recorded musical output. He was notorious for being arrogant and eccentric, to the point of being insane. Veracini was born into a musical and artistic family in Florence. His grandfather was a well-known violinist in the region, and his uncle Antonio was also a talented violinist and composer. Since the boy's father was one of the few in the family who did not play the violin, even as an amateur, he gave the young Veracini his first music lessons. The organist at Florence Cathedral was one of Veracini's other teachers in Florence. Before Easter in 1711, Veracini left Florence. He was a soloist at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice for Christmas that year, but he was never a regular member of the chapel orchestra. Veracini moved to London in 1714 and performed in a series of benefit concerts and as a soloist between opera plays. He returned to Venice in the summer of 1716, dedicating a series of 12 solo sonatas to a prince of Saxony in Germany.
Even though a violinist was not needed at the Dresden court, the prince convinced his father to employ Veracini, who arrived in Dresden in 1717. He was promoted from the prince's private payroll to the regular court payroll, where he was paid well. He stayed in Dresden until August of 1722 when he committed suicide by jumping from a third-story window. He was said to have jumped in a fit of craziness brought about by over-applying himself to music and learning chemistry. However, a musical treatise written by Veracini suggests that there was a conspiracy against his life motivated by jealousy. Veracini returned to Florence after leaving Dresden in early 1723. The majority of records from this period (1723–33) show him as a composer and performer of religious music, primarily oratorios performed by lay religious organizations. He did, however, write a mass and Te Deum to commemorate the election of Florentine Pope Clement XII in 1730. In 1733, Veracini returned to London, where he performed so often that a commentator at the time said that scarcely a concert went by without him playing a violin solo. Adriano in Siria, his first opera, was also performed. In those performances, Veracini not only played but also conducted the orchestra. In 1737, the same opera company presented his second opera, La Clemenza di Tito, and in 1738, his third, Partenio. Veracini returned to Florence for a while, but by early 1741, he was back in London, where he gave a concert of his compositions, including Nice e Tirsi, a series of 12 vocal duets. Rosalinda, an Italian version of Shakespeare's As You Like It, was first performed in 1744. Veracini's finest sonatas, the Sonate Accad iche op.2, were written the same year. Veracini reappears in 1750 in Florence, where he worked as a church musician for the remainder of his life. And in his old age, he appears not only conducted but also played the violin. Veracini developed a distinctive playing style, as well as a unique compositional style. Although his works display familiarity with his contemporaries' musical characteristics, he pursued his direction, becoming increasingly interested in the musical techniques of fugue, canon, inversion, and imitation. Veracini eventually came to despise the homophonic style he had once cultivated, associating it with ignorance and laziness. ("Homophony" refers to music with a single dominant melody followed by chords instead of polyphonic music with multiple melodic lines.) Veracini, in his characteristically independent style, purposefully followed an eccentric musical path throughout his life.