Baroque violin virtuoso Francesco Maria Veracini, though hardly a household name, led a storied life. He went mad for a time (perhaps due to his dabbles in alchemy, or even a plot by his rivals), he once fell (or perhaps jumped...or was pushed) from an upper-story window, and he lost his prized matched pair of Stainer violins with which he entertained the cream of London society in a shipwreck in the English Channel.
As it turns out, he was also a fine composer, and his 12 Sonate accademiche, Op. 2, are performed on this three-disc Hyperion set by the Locatelli Trio -- violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch, cellist Richard Tunnicliffe, and harpsichordist/organist Paul Nicholson. No two Veracini sonatas are the same -- the First in D major is in five movements -- Toccata, Capriccio Primo, Allegro, Epilogo della Toccata, and Capriccio Secondo -- the Eighth in E minor is in three movements -- Allegro, Ritornello, and Giga -- while the Twelfth is in four movements -- Passagallo, Capriccio cromatico, Adagio, and Ciaconna -- but every one is wildly inventive, intensely emotive, tremendously difficult, and, in these performances, brilliantly executed. Elizabeth Wallfisch is one of the great period violin players with an expressive tone and an awe-inspiring technique, and she takes on Veracini's most challenging double and triple stops without dropping a note. Expertly accompanied by the big-toned Tunnicliffe and the tasteful Nicholson -- check out his organ work in the Twelfth's Passagallo -- Wallfisch's performances are as stunningly original as the works themselves, and anyone interested in Italian Baroque violin music should not hesitate. Hyperion's 1993 digital sound is a bit close, but nicely so.