Vivaldi’s opus 2 sonatas for violin and continuo are
early works, composed around 1708. Originally advertised, before publication,
as sonatas for violin and cello, they were published in the form of
sonatas for violin and basso continuo, or "violini e basse per
il cembalo", cembalo being the harpsichord. While the scoring changed,
the tone of the sonatas did not - the cello has an essential role in
these works, more so than that of simple continuo, often having a virtuoso
part to play.
These sonatas all follow the three- and four-movement
sonata model developed by Corelli. Yet the performance here is quite
interesting - the harpsichord is not always present; some of the sonatas
are played by violin and cello alone, others violin, cello and theorbo
(such as sonata 6), and still others with differences among the movements
of a given sonata (such as sonata 3, where each movement is different:
first, violin, cello and theorbo, then violin, cello and harpsichord,
then violin and theorbo, and, finally, all four instruments together).
This gives this recording a greater variety than other recordings of
the same works. The combination of violin and cello alone is particularly
These are clearly works of Vivaldi’s youth. While some
of the sonatas feature the flights of fancy that he would later use
in the Four Seasons (such as the improvisatory cadenza of the Corrente
in the first sonata, and the Preludio a Capriccio of the second sonata),
the music is more often restrained and melodic. The long prelude of
the third sonata is a fine example of Vivaldi at his most lyrical, with
long phrases passed back and forth between the violin and cello. This
is one of the most interesting sonatas of the set, mostly because of
the varied instrumentation of each movement, which works extremely well
Sonata 7 is especially attractive, with its long, slow,
haunting phrases that open the prelude. Cipriani shows excellent tone
and articulation on the violin here, as does Fantinuoli on cello. The
contrapuntal writing of this movement is perfect on just these two instruments;
the addition of the harpsichord or theorbo would mask the subtle interplay
of the two tones. The allemande continues with similar fugal writing,
and the corrente is a lively dance that abandons the cello to a simple
accompaniment as the violin takes center stage.
Unlike most of Cantus’ recordings, the sound here is
not perfect. The harpsichord is often too present and sounds a bit harsh,
although the other instruments are well-balanced.
This is a fine recording of some of Vivaldi’s early
sonatas. The performers express a great deal of feeling, and their unique
choice of orchestration add variety to the music.