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ClassicsOnline Home » STARYK, Steven: Italian Violin Sonatas - Nardini / Veracini / Locatelli / Corelli
Masters of the Italian Baroque
Nardini • Veracini • Locatelli • Corelli
Pietro Nardini (1722–1793) was born in Tuscany, and received his first musical instruction at Leghorn, later studied at Padua with Tartini. About 1753, he was appointed solo violinist at the ducal court of Stuttgart, where he remained for fifteen years. In 1767 he returned to Italy, settling in Leghorn, where he remained until the death of Tartini. In 1770 he was appointed director of music at the court of the Duke of Tuscany.
Nardini was the most eminent of Tartini’s disciples. Leopold Mozart, the best possible judge in matters of violin playing, said of him: “The beauty, purity and equality of his tone, and the tastefulness of his cantabile playing, cannot be surpassed…” That Nardini was not a mere executant, but a thorough musician, is evident from the character of his compositions for the violin. Vivacity, grace, and a sweet sentimentality are the main characteristics of his style, which is altogether more modern in form and feeling than Tartini’s. His allegros are often largely developed, and already display the full sonata form, while his slow movements are not unlike Viotti’s.
The Sonata in D major is in three movements: Adagio, Allegro con fuoco, and Allegretto grazioso.
Francesco Maria Veracini (1690–1768) was one of the most prominent violinist-composers of the Italian Baroque. He came from a Florentine family of artists. His grandfather Francesco (1638–1720) was the founder of a music school in Tuscany. His eldest son Antonio enjoys no less a reputation in the history of the violin sonata than does his nephew, Francesco Maria. His father Agostino was a painter of some renown.
Veracini studied the violin with his uncle Antonio in Rome, where he also had lessons with Corelli. His fame increased rapidly, and at the coronation of Emperor Charles V, young Veracini played one of his own concertos. Shortly thereafter, he went to London and met with great success, later toured the continent as a celebrated virtuoso. When in Venice, his technique so impressed Tartini that the latter temporarily retired from public life to acquire Veracini’s technique. Prince Friedrich August of Saxony, a great patron of the arts, met Veracini in Venice and engaged him to play in his orchestra at the Dresden court. In 1716, Veracini dedicated the present Sonata in E minor, along with another work in this form, to the prince, in whose service he remained until 1722. He then returned to his native Florence, and only resumed his concert career in 1735.
In 1744, the famous Dr. Charles Burney, chronicler of musical men and events of the High Baroque, reports Veracini as soloist in concerts at London. He further relates the tale of a shipwreck that Veracini encountered on his return voyage, where he lost two of his violins.
Although most sources place Veracini’s death in the year 1750 (and in poverty, to boot), he did in fact live until 1768. Having made the most of a long and successful career, he slowly faded from public life, dying in Florence a very old and wealthy man, forgotten by the younger generation.
The Sonata in E minor is in five movements: Largo e staccato, Allegro con fuoco, Minuetto and Gavotta, (played without pause), and a concluding Giga.
Pietro Locatelli (1693–1764) was born in Bergamo, and at an early age became a pupil of Corelli’s. In time he rose to eminence as a violinist and composer, and founder of the virtuoso violin school of his time. Little is known of Locatelli’s life, but it appears that he travelled extensively, eventually settling in Amsterdam, where he lived for over thirty years until his death.
In Amsterdam, Locatelli established himself as a teacher and composer, and also imported and sold Italian made strings for all instruments. Amsterdam being the world capital of music publishing at the time, Locatelli was employed by several publishing houses as proof-reader. This enabled him to correspond with and keep abreast of the latest works of such famous composers as Handel, Leclair, and many of the great masters of his native Italy.
A distinction must be made between Locatelli’s virtuoso works written for his own use and consisting mainly of études and caprices of little musical merit,
and the sonatas and concerti. In the latter, we recognize a great and original master, a worthy disciple of his teacher Corelli.
The Sonata in G minor, one of twelve published in Amsterdam in 1732, is in four movements: Largo, Allegro, Adagio and Allegro.
Arcangello Corelli (1653–1713) holds a place of supreme importance in Baroque music. Little is known of his earlier years, but some time before 1685 (the year Bach and Handel were born) Corelli settled in Rome, where he became famous as a performer and composer. His great friend and patron was Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, an enthusiastic lover of the arts in general and of music in particular, and at whose palace Corelli lived, with slight interruptions, until his death.
Corelli’s fame spread far and wide, and young talents came from all countries to benefit from his instruction. His works were published in most European capitals. Many of his pupils became famous in turn, Geminiani and Locatelli are but two.
Corelli appears to have been an amiable and modest man, simple and unpretentious in all his habits; loved and esteemed by all who knew him. He was on excellent terms with Handel and Alessandro Scarlatti, as well as with some of the most eminent painters of his time, with whose help he formed a valuable art collection. Many of the crowned heads of Europe came to Rome to pay him homage, unsuccessfully trying to lure him into their service. The few occasions that took Corelli away from Rome were not rewarding, and he returned immediately.
Corelli has a double claim to immortality. As a great violinist, he laid a firm foundation for all future development of technique and a pure style of playing. The Sonatas Op. 5 are models for the solo sonata form, and hence for all solo violin works. Corelli also contributed materially to the advancement of orchestral composition, pointing the way for generations of composers to follow, as well as exerting considerable influence on his contemporaries. Corelli’s works are characterised by conciseness and clearness of form, and by a dignified, almost aristocratic bearing. The slow movements show genuine pathos as well as grace, bringing out in a striking manner the singing power of the violin.
The Sonata in B flat major, Op. 5, No. 2, is in five movements: Grave, Allegro, Vivace, Adagio, Vivace.
A note concerning the editions
The editions used in this recording of the sonatas by Veracini, Nardini and Locatelli are as presented in Ferdinand David’s Hohe Schule des Violinspiels, published by Breitkopf and Härtel. All available editions of the Veracini sonata include the Minuetto and Gavotta. The Adagio in the Locatelli work was chosen from another sonata by the same composer to replace the third movement in the B & H edition.
Music notes and biographies taken from the original LP release on Baroque Records BC-12874 (first released in 1967).
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