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Lesser-Known Composer of the Month: Francesco Maria Veracini

Each month the Allen Music Library highlights an oft-forgotten composer (from the slightly off mainstream to the obscure) represented in our collections, along with short profiles of lesser-known performers, musical scholars, or other musicians.

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Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768)

Wait, Who?

Veracini came from a family of violinists, although his own father never played the instrument. He was generally considered one of the finest violinists in Europe as well as one of the most arrogant.  Stories of both his ego and his eccentricities were in common circulation.

Born and raised in Florence, he also spent considerable time in many other major musical centers, including Venice, Dresden, and London.  His time in Dresden (1717-1722) was particularly tumultuous and concluded with him famously throwing himself out of an upper-storey window.  He was left with a limp for the rest of his life; one account attributes this behavior to overapplication to the study of music and alchemy, while another links it to a plot on the part of Dresden concertmaster Georg Pisendel to humiliate him.

Veracini spent most of his last two decades in Florence, where he increasingly devoted his time to composition rather than the violin.  It was also during this time that he finished his second (and only surviving) treatise on music, which contains an odd mix of harmony, counterpoint, career advice, and moralizing.

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Works in Brief

As a virtuoso violinist Veracini's naturally wrote a great deal for his own instrument.  Much of his surviving music is found in the numerous sets of sonatas he produced over the course of his life; selections from these sonatas are probably his best known works due to their inclusion in Suzuki method books.  Other works with soloists include a number of concerti in the Venetian style and a set of "dissertazioni sopra l'opera quinta del Corelli," which consists of significantly altered reworkings of Corelli's op. 5 violin sonatas.  Also notable is a set of six orchestral overture-suites.

Veracini was, however, also a composer of vocal music, producing several secular cantatas, a few sacred works (and presumably many more that are now lost), eight oratorios for which the music has been lost, and four operas written for the London stage.

A theory treatise labeled was evidently intended for publication as his "op. 3," but exists only in manuscript.

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