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Friday, March 6, 2020

Vivaldi, Manchester Sonatas, Mark Fewer, Hank Knox

The very lively and out-ringing Canadian duo of Mark Fewer on violin and Hank Knox at the harpsichord give to us their impeccable and even exciting reading of Antonio Vivaldi's Manchester Sonatas (Leaf Music LM229 2-CDs), which rather incredibly were only made available to us in 1973 when they were found in a Manchester, England library. The complete Knox-Fewer recording fills two CDs with all twelve sonatas, each with four movements.

Vivaldi may have been more prolific as a composer than others and honestly at times some of it seems less indispensable than others. Happily The Manchester Sonatas do not belong to the less essential grouping. Each one has inventive drive and character that make them a welcome addition to Vivaldi at his best, lyrical or vital in turn, a joy to hear.

And part of that joy stems from just how good the Fewer-Knox Duo is at realizing this music. Mark Fewer plays without a vibrato, with a deeply, sweetly centered intonation and a straightforward musical energy that Hank Knox seconds with conviction. The harpsichord has the all-important role of realizing the harmonies and bass foundations of each movement and it is to his credit that nothing comes across as filler--but instead all sets up the musical stage so that Fewer's violin can come across with a vigorous robustness never sentimental but ever openly engaged and flourishing with animation.

The duo follow with this on the heels of their 2018 Bach Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord  which I have not heard but suspect (if it's anything like this one) it is very good.

The completely centered readings give this recording a decided edge that is as delightful to hear as it is to study and learn from. Recommended without hesitation.

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