Vivaldi: Manchester Sonatas reviewed by Early Music America
Updated: May 26, 2021
Canadian violinist Mark Fewer and harpsichordist Hank Knox seize on all that variety to create a sensitive and exciting recital. Performances are thoughtfully shaped and paced from the opening of the first sonata, which also displays Fewer’s natural way of integrating chordal stops into the melodic fabric. His ornamentation respects Vivaldi’s lyrical gifts and shares his own personality as a soloist. Fewer’s dynamic shading and articulation make repeated phrases like those in Sonata 5’s Saraband into gripping statements. The worrying motif in Sonata 7’s Prelude grows in anxiousness each time it returns.
Fewer displays an interpretive and technical knack for details without sounding fussy, as in Sonata 4’s Corrente — with its frenzied descents and pizzicato exclamation points — or his exploration of the winding little theme in Sonata 8’s Andante. He also spotlights Vivaldi’s imaginative use of dissonance without seeming mannered. Sonata 9’s bevy of suspensions are positioned like intriguing questions.
Vivaldi’s scoring foregoes interaction between soloist and continuo, so Knox is given a strictly accompanimental role. His support is seamless enough to almost take it for granted. Yet Vivaldi composed only an unfigured bass part, so Knox isn’t just realizing a continuo but extemporizing harmonies. His rich voicings and steady beat audibly spur Fewer’s creativity. Subtle tempo fluctuations in Sonata 8’s Prelude exemplify the duo’s unified feel.
Fewer’s slicing strokes and Knox’s flurries make for a resonant match in Sonata 10’s Corrente.
This release adds a highly individual and refreshing addition to the catalogue.
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