Violinist Francesco Maria Veracini was born on 1 February 1690 in Florence. His father was a pharmacist, but his grandfather had been one of the first violinists of Florence, and ran a music school. The youngster was taught the violin by his uncle Antonio Veracini. In 1711 he established himself in Venice and gained a reputation as an outstanding instrumentalist. In 1714, Veracini paid a first visit to London and played instrumental pieces between the acts of operas at the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket.
He was a star performer at the Dresden court from 1717, but in the course of the following years his odd behaviour started rumours about his mental state. He returned to London in 1733. Between 1735 and 1744 he wrote four operas for the Opera of the Nobility, the chief rival of Handel’s company. Unusually for its day, his last opera Rodelinda was based on Shakespeare’s play As You Like It. The opera, staged in 1744, includes the Scots ballad tune ‘The Lass of Paties Mill’.
In 1745 or shortly after, he survived a shipwreck in which he lost two of his Stainer violins (the ones he called St Peter and St Paul) and all of his effects. Veracini returned to Florence in 1750, working primarily as a church musician, mainly composing and conducting, but also occasionally playing the violin into his seventies. He died in October 1768 in Florence.