Vivaldi: Violin Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Arcana
WORKS: Violin Sonatas (Manchester)
PERFORMER: Fabio Biondi (violin), Rinaldo Alessandrini (harpsichord, positivo organ), Maurizio Naddeo (cello), Paolo Pandolfo (contrabass), Rolf Lislevand (theorbo, baroque guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: A422

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 Vivaldi and Manchester seems an unlikely pairing; yet the title Manchester Sonatas, though not Vivaldi’s own, is appropriate, since the Vivaldi scholar, Michael Talbot discovered them in Manchester’s Central Music Library almost 40 years ago.

It was an important find for these Sonatas are pleasingly varied and of a generally high level of musical interest. Furthermore, seven of them are known from no other source while the remaining five are preserved in earlier versions. 

Fabio Biondi is an idiosyncratic violinist, and opinions of his playing tend to be strongly polarised. He is an imaginative interpreter whose feeling for theatrical gesture and rhetorical timing can be startlingly evident and sometimes irritating. If mannerisms are a problem then Andrew Manze’s recording with Romanesca (Harmonia Mundi) may afford greater pleasure. 

Biondi’s continuo group, consisting of harpsichord/organ, cello, double bass, theorbo or Baroque guitar is much larger than the harpsichord and lute/theorbo/guitar fielded by Romanesca. Both have their virtues, though by dispensing with bowed instruments Manze achieves sharper definition and greater intimacy than Biondi.

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The weakness in Biondi’s playing lies in his own unreliable intonation, most evident, perhaps, in the fourth Sonata (RV 755). Manze has the edge on him here, and is generally more meticulous in detail than his rival. Nicholas Anderson