A unique set of 20 trio sonatas, including the Venetian master’s first published collection, in new recordings from a dynamic Italian period-instrument group.
Antonín Vivaldi (1678-1741) was 27 years old when his Opus 1 collection of 12 sonatas first appeared in print in 1705. Whether or not they represent his earliest acknowledged compositions, they certainly mark the start of a glittering career, bearing already identifiable Vivaldian fingerprints while also drawing on a heritage of Italianate chamber music exemplified by the trio sonatas of Corelli.
The form of these early works resembles a suite rather than the three- and four-movement pieces determined by tempo marking which soon became standard practice for the sonatas and concertos composed by Vivaldi in such profusion. In all but three of the Opus 1 Sonatas, a freely developed prelude introduces a sequence of three dance movements such as sarabandes, gigues and gavottes. Solemnity and lively intimacy sit side by side, in an ingenious synthesis of church and chamber modes of expression.
Vivaldi’s Opus 1 reaches a grand climax with a free-standing set of variations on the most popular melody in 18th century Italy, ‘La Folia’. This grave and antique chord-sequence of Spanish origin inspired the 20-something composer to handle the familiar instrumental line-up in a bold new way, liberating the bass line from a supporting role and giving some especially brilliant canonical dialogues to the two violins. The sonata demonstrates the degree to which vocal writing inspired Vivaldi’s slow movements and paved the way for his future ventures in opera.
The album is completed by two sonatas from the Opus 5 collection published in 1716, and six more sonatas without an opus number (RV 60, 68, 71, 71, 74 and 77 in the Vivaldi catalogue), all scored for the same combination of instruments. The virtuoso handling and the constant interaction of the violins are reminiscent of Vivaldi’s double concertos. Whatever their date, the sonatas are remarkable compositions that deserve to be better known, and they receive stylish as well as historically informed advocacy here from L’Archicembalo, who are steadily assembling a critically acclaimed Vivaldi discography for Brilliant Classics.
Praise for L’Archicembalo on Brilliant Classics
'That one can emerge fresh from the listening experience and crave more says much for L’Archicembalo’s compelling performances and Vivaldi’s indefatigable imagination...’ Robin Stowell, The Strad
‘L’Archicembalo is an Italian Baroque ensemble with a nimble and vivacious style. Performances are energetic, quickly responsive and well recorded.’ Richard Fairman, Financial Times
‘A broad description of their sound would be that it’s as energetic, exuberant and rhythmic as you’d expect from Vivaldi performances, with a polish and attack that places it somewhere in the middle of the Vivaldi timbral punch-o-meter.’ Charlotte Gardner, Gramophone
- This 3-CD set contains Vivaldi’s complete Sonatas for two violins and basso continuo, taken from the Trio Sonatas Op.1 and Op.5. The early sonatas Op.1 were clearly influenced by Corelli, both in form and style; the 4 or 5 movements consist of dance forms, preceded by a Preludio, and the style is brilliant and virtuoso in the fast movements, while the slow movements reveal how the human voice acted as a model, paving the way for his future ventures into opera.
- Played on period instruments by L’Archicembalo, a young and exciting Early Music group from Italy. The two violins are accompanied by cello, violone and harpsichord.
- L’Archicembalo’s previous recording for Brilliant Classics, the string Symphonies by Vivaldi, received excellent reviews: “...a broad description of their sound would be that it’s as energetic, exuberant and rhythmic as you’d expect from Vivaldi performances...” (Gramophone), “...As soon as I heard them I was electrified. A new interpretation that is lively and harmonious, a blessing and an absolute stimulus for my ears”. (Bettina Winkler, SWR).