Listening Room

03 FewerVivaldi – Manchester Sonatas
Mark Fewer; Hank Knox
Leaf Music LM229


Violin Sonata in D minor RV 12 I. Preludio

Violin Sonata in D minor RV 12 II. Corrente

Violin Sonata in D minor RV 12 III. Giga


Read the Review

The following review is an excerpt from Strings Attached (March 2020) which can be read in its entirety here.

Manchester isn’t exactly a city you associate with Baroque violin sonatas, but it’s front and centre in Vivaldi – Manchester Sonatas, an excellent new 2CD set from violinist Mark Fewer and harpsichordist Hank Knox (Leaf Music LM229 

The manuscripts for this collection of 12 works by Antonio Vivaldi originated in the private collection of Vivaldi’s contemporary Cardinal Ottoboni, passing through several owners (including Handel’s Messiah librettist Charles Jennens) before being purchased by the Manchester Public Library in 1964. Even so, they were only discovered in Manchester’s Henry Watson Music Library in 1973 by musicologist Michael Talbot.

Apparently dating from the 1716-1717 period the collection contains only four sonatas that were completely new – Nos. 5, 10, 11 and 12 – the remaining eight known to exist in earlier sources although reworked in numerous ways here to fit the duo genre. The violin part, while quite detailed for the period, still leaves room for embellishment by the performer; the harpsichord part, meanwhile, does not even feature a figured bass line most of the time, so Knox has full rein when it comes to realizing the accompaniment.

Fewer’s playing is bright, assured and technically brilliant, with Knox supplying a rich accompaniment that focuses more on harmonic support than contrapuntal interplay of melodic voices. The sonatas themselves are highly entertaining and inventive, featuring less of the usual Vivaldi arpeggios, scales and sequences than you might expect. The fast movements in particular are quite exhilarating.

There are no track timings, but the two CDs run to 68 and 63 minutes respectively.

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