Vivaldi: Violin Sonatas, Op. 2/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, Op. 2/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin), Richard Tunnicliffe (cello), Malcolm Proud (harpsichord)
A pre-publication catalogue described these sonatas as violin/cello duos, but they were printed as conventional violin sonatas with harpsichord, and optional cello reinforcing the bass-line. Doubtless this was to make them more saleable, but the bass remains exceptionally active, often conversing with the upper part – in the very first Prelude, cello follows violin with dog-like devotion. Strangely, neither Richard Tunnicliffe (nor Katherine Sharman supporting Walter Reiter in their 1998 Signum recording) makes any attempt to extend imitation to ornaments; as violin adds these to motifs in repeats, the bass-line answers with unadorned written notes, negating Vivaldi’s artful patterning. Elizabeth Wallfisch and Tunnicliffe play the Third Sonata without keyboard, justified by Vivaldi’s original plan and the extra close relationship between their lines. The bleak texture makes an effective contrast, with cello breaking into chords to enrich the harmony from time to time. Recorded sound is excellent, the violin a touch forward of the other players, while the choice of higher pitch, following Venetian convention, adds attractive brightness. Wallfisch has a convincing feel for decoration, including fluent ‘divisions’ filling gaps in melodic lines (first movement of No. 4), while rattling fast accompaniments are immaculate (second of No. 4, for example). One inventive choice, which the booklet essay justifies convincingly enough, is the inclusion of a ‘Pastorale’ from Vivaldi’s Il pastor fido, a melody which haunts the memory for days. Of the two very acceptable performances now available, Reiter’s riskier allegros and generally more spacious slow movements just tip the balance towards his Signum set, particularly as it contains all 12 sonatas. George Pratt