8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is one of those rare discs that is pretty much perfect. "Pure Baroque Magic", as the previous reviewer said. Like that reviewer, I wasn't familiar with Veracini until this disc. Too many wonderful composers from the Baroque period are overshadowed by their much more famous contemporaries (e.g., Bach and Vivaldi), but Veracini is definitely worth discovering!
The four sonatas on the disc are beautifully written and performed, and the clarity of the recording is top-notch. Holloway seems to channel the spirit of composer-violinist Veracini (think of Yo-Yo Ma performing Boccherini) in his mastery of extemporaneous melodic ornamentation (trills, turns, and mordents -- oh my!), which was usually not notated explicity in Baroque manuscripts but rather simply expected of a capable performer. Holloway is certainly that!
These aren't sonatas in the Classical (and later) sense of the term. Using later definitions, these might have been called trios. But the sonata form in the Baroque period was different. In the Vivaldian form, there were four movements, while in the form popularized by Corelli, there were five -- as opposed to the more common three-movement form in the Classical and Romantic periods. There are representatives of both Baroque forms here, one of which is an explicit homage to Corelli's Opus 5.
Those familiar with the later form of the sonata might also be surprised to see a harpsichord *and* cello here, but the two operate together as a continuo in most of the movements, which is typical of the period. There are occasions, however, where the cello and harpsichord get to "stretch their legs", so to speak, breaking out of the continuo model, as in the lovely opening movement of the Sonata No. 5 in C Major (track 6). Listen for the wonderful tinkling arpeggiation in the hapsichord part, making it sound more like a harp, while the cello part is beautifully spare, harmonically reinforcing the central violin solo.
Veracini also has the ability to surprise. In the liner notes, Holloway calls him "an innovative composer [with] an eccentric personality", and that comes through at many points. For example, in the downward chromatic progression in the Aria movement of the Sonata No. 1 in G Minor (track 2). But while he diverges from traditional harmonic and contrapuntal forms at times, Veracini also delivers passages that are wonderfully illustrative of Baroque character, as in the second movement of the Sonata No. 1 in D Major (track 11), which has the feel of a Bach canon. Think of the final Allegro of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, taken down in tempo, and you'll have a good sense of it. There are also remarkably lovely slower movements, as in the Largo of the Sonata No. 6 in A Major (track 18), which calls to mind echoes of Vivaldi and Albinoni.
So, if you like the Baroque -- and in particular, Vivaldi, Corelli, Scarlatti, and to a lesser extent Bach -- do yourself a favor and order a copy of the Veracini Sonatas.