Francesco Maria Veracini was an Italian baroque composer most famous for his limp, gained after jumping out of a window.
The six Overtures were performed for Prince Friedrich August in Venice in 1716, as part of Veracini's ultimately successful attempt to secure a position at the Dresden court. They are all either in F major or B-flat major, except for one in G minor. The last one of these, in B-flat major, is remarkable for concluding with a unison minuet. So, we might see why Musica Antiqua of Cologne may have chosen these works to record, on the heels of their successful debut of Johann David Heinichen's Dresden Concertos, earlier in the 1990s. Goebel almost became obsessed with un-earthing Dresden-related music, and this set is interesting for it reveals another side of Veracini, who himself got around western Europe well. These are small suites, each opens with a multi-section opener, then follows with a short series of dances (menuetts, sarabandes, gigues, gavottes, etc.). On paper they look typical, perhaps, employing strings and double reeds. But they don't have a telling Italian sound to my ears, they are far more cosmopolitan, reeking of theatre music. MAK is in fine form at first listen, with the word "August" coming to mind to describe the sound. During this period of DG Archiv's recordings, I found many of MAKs recordings in the so-called "4D sound" tended to suffer from the quality present in their earlier releases (late 1980s). Not sure if it's the fault of MAK or DG, but the sound of the ensemble can be harsh and "glossy." They sound like a "machine," if that makes sense, with a sound that really doesn't pay tribute to transparency between instruments. Add to that MAKs athletic playing style, and I'm only left with imagining this music performed in some public spectacle, like the one in the painting on the CD cover. Festive, confident, and even metallic. Veracini tends to write very happy music, and the real drama doesn't show itself until the last work on the CD, the G-minor overture (the 5th of the six works appears on another MAK disc). It has the same interplay between strings and oboes, but this time around, the string lines seem to be a bit more virtuosic, and even dramatic. What's most remarkable about the playing is the before-mentioned athletic style and how an entire ensemble can sound as "1" entity, quite focused in playing together. They let Veracini's orchestrations dictate changes is dynamics, which is a nice effect. The last work is my favorite on the recording, but the style of Francesco Maria Veracini sometimes disappoints me. He was writing music of his time, to be sure, which sometimes has real character and flavor; at other times, it's technically well-written but just un-inspired after a couple hundred of years. Upon repeated listens, you certainly have to respect MAK's ability to play technically so well. I just wish the recording better supported them, too much of the music sounds brash. The final unison menuett from the G-minor work is so hard, I am surprised we don't hear an instrument being bashed apart in a final swing of anger at the end. To get such a sound from a modern chamber orchestra, I can only imagine, as a composer, writing "play this like you hate the world" in the margins.