Sonatas for 2 Violins

Vivaldi: Sonatas for 2 Violins Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) Sonatas for 2 Violins Sonata in F major, RV70 Sonata in G major, RV71 Sonata in F major, RV68 Sonata in B flat major, RV77 Andrea Zani (1696-1757) Duetto in E flat major Canone Compagnia de Violini rec. 2022, Teatro Comunale, Casalmaggiore, Italy Brilliant Classics 96818 [74] The music on this disc represents Vivaldi at his sparsest, perhaps an unexpected phenomenon of this composer’s instrumental output, usually noted for its often robust rhythmic energy and sensuous timbres. The four sonatas by him here are those in which the bass line is specifically stated to be optional, and it is dispensed with in this recording by Alessandro Ciccolini and Domenico Scicchitano, unlike in the interpretations by L’Astrée which featured on volume 12 of Naïve’s Vivaldi Edition. Reduced to a pair of violins alone, these works no longer constitute trio sonatas – the genre with which they are grouped in Peter Ryom’s catalogue of all of Vivaldi’s compositions, falling between numbers 60 and 79, most of which otherwise comprise his Opus 1 publication. Instead they properly become sonatas for just two violins, as in the title of the disc. Interestingly only one of the four is in a sharp key corresponding to the tonality of any of the violin’s open strings, and which lends the most bright and opulent sound in compositions for this instrument. Instead three of the works are in flat keys, though it is possible that there were other such sonatas with optional bass, perhaps at least two others to make a set of six. Given that prevalence of flat keys in the surviving group of sonatas, which would generally result in a less open timbre, Ciccolini and his former pupil Scicchitano seem to cultivate a more brittle sonority in these pieces. Even though the Allegro outer movements tend to be reasonably broad in tempo, they don’t articulate the music with sustained lyricism but keep the notes more detached instead, sometimes with a touch of staccato. The violinists may sound a touch dutiful, at least on the first traversal of each section, but in the repeats of each half, as the music takes wing, they embellish it with ornaments and flourishes, usually arpeggiated elaborations of the implied harmonies and whizzing scales to add some panache. They work most thrillingly in the finale of RV70, designated Allegro molto, and therefore executed a touch more briskly than the other fast movements. RV71, in the more violin-friendly key of G major, is the most spirited of the sonatas, which the performers take up enthusiastically here. The textures are more filled out with greater harmonic integration between the two instruments, rather than responding to each other antiphonally. As such the music takes on a more idiomatic character, and starts to sound rather more like the busier interactions of Vivaldi’s chamber concertos without orchestra, or like the solo episodes in his double violin concertos – indeed its material relates to one such concerto, RV516. Although the slow movements of all four sonatas generally draw out a vocal lyricism, in the case of RV71’s Larghetto Ciccolini and Scicchitano meet the strange modulations with appropriately ghostly timbres that are more purely violinistic. The B-flat Sonata RV77 is less of a concertante work, but it is relatively more florid than the two Sonatas in F major: the Lombardic rhythms of its first movement bring out a certain quirky liveliness from the performers compared with the other Allegro movements, while the lulling quavers of its G minor Andante provide a buoyant accompaniment for the poignantly embellished melodic line which could be that of an operatic aria. Intriguingly this Sonata veers towards a sombre mood in that its outer fast movements modulate to G minor, rather than the expected dominant of F major. The Duetto and quirky Canone by Vivaldi’s younger contemporary, Andrea Zani, fill out the disc. They are given more Classically poised and serious performances than the Sonatas, reflecting their later musical style. But it’s certainly the Vivaldi that will draw fans of that composer to this disc, for the different presentation and more capricious accounts of the Sonatas than they may already know from the Naïve recording, which this complements. Curtis Rogers Original: