Antonio Vivaldi: Violin Sonatas – 12 Sonatas, Op 2


Traditionally known as the composer of the Four Seasons and the Gloria, the work of Cecilia Bartoli has shown that lesser-known works of the red priest from Venice can become hit records too. 

Now Signum Records are delighted to introduce a two disc set on period instruments of the 12 Violin Sonatas, Opus 2. Cordaria features internationally-renowned baroque violinist Walter Reiter, "an artist who transcends authenticity to enter the universal" as one critic wrote, and an eminent continuo team of harpsichord, cello and theorbo.

Written in 1708, just before the ‘L’estro armonico’ concertos, these sonatas contain all the passion and the virtuosity, all the lyricism and emotion, which have made the concertos so eternally popular. In the words of the great Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot, "Op. 2 is fully Vivaldian and certainly deserves to take its place among his other masterworks."


What people are saying

"brilliant, singing violin tone … this is mature if not sensational playing that brings the music to life"


"in slower movements mixes a clean often sweetly singing line with tasteful ornamentation …. and who in faster ones shows real virtuosity and fire"

Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone


"technically polished …. charismatic baroque violin soloist, he plays with real ardor and gusto"

Magil, American Guide


"Walter Reiter and Cordaria ….  play with energy, dash and gusto, pointing Vivaldi’s (and their own) piquant rhythms with sweeping ornamentation"

Robert Maxham, Fanfare


"The English virtuoso treats these pages with notable liberty and imagination …. his approach seems to favour the more lively and brilliant aspect of the sonatas"

Giovanni Tasso

Walter Reiter with Cordaria

Release date:4th May 2000
Order code:SIGCD014
Barcode: 635212001424 – January 2001
Artistic quality 8, Sound quality 6

Until this very fine effort by violinist Walter Reiter and his colleagues, there was no good recent recording (that is, from the past 10-15 years) of these relatively early Vivaldi works for violin and continuo. As realized here, the continuo consists of harpsichord and cello with theorbo or Baroque guitar on three of the sonatas. Although Vivaldi’s music, especially at this stage (1709) had neither the high artistic distinction nor intellectual sophistication that characterizes even the lesser works of Bach, it maintains an extraordinary and consistently appealing nature, carried by melodies that always fall easily on the ear and by a propulsive, catchy rhythmic pulse. Unfortunately, it’s easy to make Vivaldi boring – and many performers oblige by being too casual and only scraping the surface or too serious and forcing the music into ill-fitting duds. Reiter has the right idea: he respectfully plays what’s there (no distracting show-off mannerisms) while fortifying his solo lines with brilliant, singing violin tone and effective yet refined dramatic touches. In other words, this is mature if not sensational playing that brings the music to life with interpretations that will hold up very well over time. Reiter benefits from able, congenial musical partners who properly understand their role in these pieces to be one of more or less equal partnership rather than mere accompaniment. Some listeners will appreciate the bright, somewhat glassy quality to the sound of the violin and harpsichord, while I would have preferred just a bit more warmth.

David Vernier

Gramophone – December 2000

Vivaldi’s 40 or so violin sonatas have never been as popular in recordings as his concertos, and there seems no reason to suppose they ever will be. This recording of his complete Op.2 is one of only a handful currently in the catalogue, and, amazingly, it appears to be the first on period instruments – a strange situation in these baroque-hungry days. Coolness towards the sonatas is undoubtedly due in part to the fact that they are not as recognisably Vivaldian as the concertos. Op.2, in particular, showing a heavy debt to the elegant and balanced musical manner of Corelli. Certainly there are few hints of the mercurial invention of the Op.3 concertos that were to follow not long afterwards (Op.2 was published in 1709, Op.3 in 1711). Only in the odd fiery movement such as the Preludio a capriccio presto of Sonata No.2, or an occasional lyrically poised slow movement, such as the Adagio of Sonata No.3, do we seem to glimpse the hand of the Red Priest at work (tune-spotters may also enjoy an unmistakable foretaste of the ‘Domine Deus’ from the Gloria in the Third sonata’s Preludio.) This is not to say that this music has no character of its own; while it may well be hard to guess Vivaldi as its composer, in the end it could not truly be mistaken for the work of Corelli either. And it is certainly well written and attractive.

Walter Reiter is a name familiar from numerous personnel lists of period orchestras, but less so as a chamber musician, and this is his first recording with his own group, Cordaria. He shows himself to be a stylish, no-nonsense player, who in slower movements mixes a clean often sweetly singing line with tasteful ornamentation which refuses to draw undue attention to itself, and who in faster ones shows real virtuosity and fire. Occasionally his intonation is a little uncomfortable, but this is generally compensated for by his overall musicality. His continuo colleagues provide fine support, Shalev Ad-El proving an inventive but sensitive harpsichord accompanist, and Katherine Sharman obviously enjoying the chance to partake in melodic dialogue when it comes her way. In short, these are intelligent but natural accounts of the unfairly neglected music, in which any points the players are out to make are about the music and not themselves.

Lindsay Kemp

American Guide, November/December 2000

These are delightful works from Italy’s greatest baroque master of composition for the violin. They are full of feeling and color, and tall they need is an interpreter worthy of them. Walter Reiter certainly ha Vivaldi’s style under his belt, and, while he isn’t the most technically polished or charismatic baroque violin soloist, he plays with real ardor and gusto. This is exemplary for showing what can be done with a baroque violin, some fine continuo players, and plenty of spunk.


Fanfare – November/December 2000

Antonio Vivaldi’s name may once have been as closely connected with opera as it is now with concertos: but his sonatas, fewer in number and more slender in fancy, have never formed so wide a basis for his fame as did Corelli’s for his. Not only the Roman master’s trio sonatas but also his solo sonatas, in fact, had achieved such wide dissemination and renown that it’s hard to imagine individual movements like the Giga of Vivaldi’s First Sonata, the Corrente of the Third, the Allemande of the Fourth, or the Giga and Corrente of the Eighth not having been consciously patterned on them (the set even opens with a quotation from Corelli’s Op. 5/8). In fact, however, the melodic and harmonic characteristics of the movement’s subject are only the most obvious obeisances Vivaldi makes to Corelli; the sequential procedures he follows in developing them – procedures he would later customise or abandon – also pay homage to the older composer.

Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot points out, in his through and informative booklet notes, the discrepancy between the first advertisements for what was to be Op.2 and the set that finally appeared: the title of the published version no longer described the cello as a duo instrument. The bass, as he notes, remains active througho9ut the set; but since it seldom engages in extended or even equal dialog with the violin part (although it has its moments, as in the opening of, and generally throughout, the Seventh Sonata), the new designation for violin and continuo hardly seems misleading.

Six of the Sonatas (Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11) are in three movements, five (Nos. 1, 3, 4, 9, and 12) are in four, and one (No.2) is in five. With the consistent exception of the Preludio that opens 11 of the Sonatas, stylised dances constitute the bulk of the pieces. Some of the most striking melodic material would appear in other guises (the opening motive of the third Sonata’s Preludio, for example, reappears in the same key in the Domine Deus of the Gloria, RV 589)

Walter Reiter and Cordaria (in this instance, Shalev Ad-El, harpsichord; Katherine Sharman, cello, except in the Second Sonata; and Lynda Sayce, theorbo or guitar, in the Eighth, Ninth, and 12th Sonatas) play with energy, dash and gusto, pointing Vivaldi’s (and their own) piquant rhythms with sweeping ornamentation. Although virtuosity doesn’t play so flamboyant a role in Vivaldi’s sonatas as it does in his concertos, Reiter dispatches their most demanding passages with a crisp articulation that commands attention. The tone of this 1727 Mathias Klotz sounds consistently bright and silvery (most of the passages lie in the upper middle registers – Vivaldi, like Corelli, didn’t push the limits of his technique far upward in his sonatas), and he indulges none of the mannerisms that beset (and for many, mar) the performances of so many capable period instrumentalists. The engineers have balanced solo-violin and continuo instruments, and the effect approaches the sound of the music as a listener might hear it in actual performance from a seat somewhere in the middle of the crowd.

Although Fabrizio Cipriani (Cantus 9608/9) may adopt more conservative tempos than Reiter he infuses the music with great rhythmic verve, and traces it with crisper articulation; in addition, he improvises idiomatic, striking cadenzas between the sonatas. Those who wish to enjoy these benefits, however, must be prepared to tolerate an aggressive continuo harpsichord, partly an effect of Cantus’s sonic engineering.

Vivaldi may not yet have been Vivaldi in the sonatas, but he wasn’t Corelli, Albinoni, or Marcello wither, and his voice in them, if not consistently recognisable, was, though, inchoate, rapidly becoming his won. They’re worth hearing although those who value a more improvisational approach might prefer Cypriani; and Salvatore Accardo’s suave readings from 1977, available in the Vivaldi Edition, Philips 456 185-2, are still hard to beat. Given the excellence of the alternatives, Signum’s entry, though worthy, merits only a conditional recommendation.

Robert Maxham – September 2000

Antonio Vivaldi’s opus 2 sonatas, for solo violin and continuo, are among twelve collections of instrumental music committed to print between 1705 and 1729. Only three contain sonatas-Op. 1 (1705) consists of twelve trio sonatas, Op.2 (1709) twelve solo sonatas and Op. 5 (1716), described by Vivaldi as ‘seconda parte’ of Op. 2, four violin and two trio sonatas. These are ‘immature’ works, in many ways a discretely different response to the all-encompassing shadow cast by Corelli. Although not quite the Vivaldi of the Four Seasons, they are still striking in their musical language and should rightly be accorded the same status of his other, more mature works.

The Op. 2 collection, recorded here by Signum Records, would be a fine addition to any music-lover’s library. Performed by the highly virtuoso Walter Reiter with Shalev Ad-El (harpsichord), Katherine Sharman (cello) and Lynda Sayce (theorbo), Vivaldi’s music finds a new voice with a thoroughly exciting performance. Primarily, we are treated to Baroque violin playing at its best – Walter Reiter’s control of his instrument is, to say the least, astounding; not only does he demonstrate a clear understanding of the music’s affekt, but his playing also shows a sense of structure that is often lacking in many others’ performances. In particular, the sonatas seem to have a sense of unity as a whole – not only do the sonatas work as single units, but when played end-to-end, a more subtle structure is apparent, as if the complete opus were one long, varied work. This approach is refreshing and welcome. Reiter certainly takes risks and for those who feel they need the relative stability of a predictable (though less-exciting) performance, this disc is unfortunately not for you; Cordaria respond not only to the pathos of slower movements, but to the humour and vivacity of quicker ones. The final Allemanda Allegro of Sonata no. 12 is a case in point – the music displays much humour in an almost perpetuum mobile manner, to which the performers respond with equal good nature. Stylistically-aware ornamentation is well conceived, but for some reason, melodic elaboration is reserved almost entirely for repeat sections, a feature that is all too common in modern performances. Nevertheless, when it does occur, it is never intrusive or, as is sadly the case in some modern performances, awkward

Special note should be taken of the stunning continuo playing, a driving force behind the music, which adds much to the performance; Ad-El provides a rich harmonic background on which Reiter hangs the solo lines, his role being that of a collaborator rather than accompanist, one that is sensitively responsive to both Katherine Sharman and Lynda Sayce.

Along with excellent insert notes provided by Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot, this disc is a rich and exciting resource and cannot be recommended highly enough.

John Woodford

Audio Review (Italy) – September 2000

As the recording of Walter Reiter and Cordaria shows, the less well-known Vivaldi does not lack elegance, spectacularity and virtuosity, liveliness and instant communicativeness. Reiter is a consummate specialist of the baroque repertoire..his reading of Vivaldi is agile and frankly ‘nordic’ in the sense that he steers clear of the theatrical histrionics…that can take precedence over far more important elements. Reiter chooses a more sober, highly technical approach, in which the peculiarities of the violin writing are brought to light with just mesure, helped by the wonderful realisation of the basso continuo entrusted to a group of authentic specialists’.

Stefano Calucci

Early Music Review – June 2000

Two CDs of Vivaldi violin sonatas might seem a little daunting. It’s a mark of the standard of this set that Cordaria held my attention throughout more than 100 minutes. The violin playing is excellent – this may not be the most virtuosic music the composer ever wrote (he presumably hoped that lesser mortals would buy the print), but these are truly virtuoso performances. The fast movements bounce along, the slow ones have a certain poise about them, and the dances dance – it sounds a strange thing to say, but it’s so rarely the case! The continuo consists of harpsichord, theorbo (Lynda Sayce uses two different instruments) or baroque guitar, and cello. One sonata is without cello, and the plucked continuo only plays in Sonatas 8, 9 and 12. This recording is to be followed by Biber’s Mystery Sonatas and I for one cannot wait to hear that set! Buy this and find out why.

International Record Review

Vivaldi’s chamber music – like most of his output except for the concertos and the Gloria – is still relatively neglected. He began his published career with a set of Corelli-influenced Trio Sonatas in 1705, and a new recording by London Baroque on Harmonia Mundi enables us to see how far he had developed stylistically by his mid-twenties. The set of 12 solo sonatas that followed four years later represents a sli8ght advance, but the Corelli model still predominates, even if Vivaldi mixes da chiesa and da camera elements at will. The Op.2 Sonatas are in three to five movements, with a slow prelude followed by any combination of allemanda, corrente, sarabanda, giga and so on, though never in the traditional order. The gap – in terms of quality and confidence – between these works and the splendid Op. 3 Concertos of 1711 seems a wide one, but this may also reflect the fact that Vivaldi was happier working in the concerto medium.

Cordaria, an ensemble founded in 1998, use the violin, harpsichord and cello combination that is standard for this repertoire, adding a theorbo or guitar in three of the sonatas. The playing is expert, with virtually no lapses in ensemble or intonation. Violinist Walter Reiter is well-known for his work with The English Concert and numerous other period-instrument ensembles, and proves himself a dynamic yet sensitive soloist. His tone is sweet and even, and he characterises well both eh dance elements of the individual movements and each sonata itself; the continuo team provides absolutely sterling support.

Moto perpetuo movements such as the Corrente of the Fourth Sonata in F major or the Giga of the Eighth Sonata in G major are sometimes handled a little more vigorously than necessary – these are chamber works, not concertos, after all but Andantes and Largos are graceful and elegant. In short, Cordaria generally make as good a case for these sonatas as one might wish for, but it must be conceded that they do not exactly represent one of the peaks of Vivaldi’s output. The later so-called “Manchester Sonatas”, discovered a quarter of a century ago in that city’s Central Music Library, are in fact of greater interest. There are excellent performances of these by Romanesca (on Harmonia Mundi_ and Fabio Biondi (on Arcana).

The recording places the instruments too close for real aural comfort, but the balance between the strings and keyboard is pretty much ideal. Michael Talbot’s booklet notes set the sonatas well in context of Vivaldi’s other published works, although they could have said more about these particular pieces. The rival modern-instrument version by Salvatore Accardo is now only available as part of a large box of Vivaldi’s chamber music and concerts; dating from the late 1970s, it is easily outclassed by this newcomer.

Francis Knights

(Unidentified Italian review)

The English virtuoso treats these pages with notable liberty and imagination, allowing the music literally to breathe. His approach seems decidedly to favour the more lively and brilliant aspect of the sonatas, characterising the different dance movements with style and insight. Also ideal is the contribution of the continuo, rich and intelligent, but not too pervasive so as to upstage the soloist…at this point, it only remains for us to hope that Reiter and Cordaria notice the existence of the Opus 1 and 5.

Giovanni Tasso

Musica 120 (Italy)

This rendering is characterised by its attention to textual detail which nevertheless leaves space for imagination and the personality of the players. The violinist Walter Reiter rises with ease above the technical difficulties set by the composer; at the harpsichord sits Shalev Ad-El, who accompanies with gusto and precision, in unity with the cellist Katherine Sharman and Lynda Sayce who enriches the continuo in 3 sonatas with the beautiful sound of her theorbo’.

Mario Marcarini

Review from Seen and Heard
Music Web – June 2002
Music Web – August 2002

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.

These sonatas are clearly influenced by Corelli’s opus 5 violini sonatas, which established norms in form and style at the time. While Vivaldi used the ‘da camera’ form, where most of the three or four movements of the sonata were dance movements, he takes a bit more liberty in the abstract movements.

These sonatas all range from three to five movements, and, on this recording, their timings range from just over 6 minutes to more than 11 minutes. Individual movements range from the presto of the second sonata (27 seconds!) to the long prelude of the third sonata (just shy of 7 minutes). In most of the sonatas, the prelude is the longest movement; this gives a feeling that some of them are unbalanced – take the sixth sonata, for example, the prelude is over 6 minutes long, and the two other movements total less than 3½ minutes.

In any case, these works come at a time when Vivaldi was not yet Vivaldi; or, at least, when he had not developed his signature style. One can hear the beginnings of this style in these works, and, while some have called these sonatas ‘immature’, they are far from that. While not being in the same vein as the Four Seasons and other great Vivaldian works, they are certainly masterpieces.

Walter Reiter’s performance of these works is excellent. His playing is tasteful, his ornamentation subtle and attractive, and he obtains a beautiful tone from his violin. This recording exudes a great deal of joy and happiness; under Reiter’s bow, this is clearly music to be enjoyed. His mastery of the rhythms of the dance music, his virtuosity when called for, and his restraint when needed all add up to provide an immensely satisfying performance. An example is the long prelude in the third sonata, where Reiter plays with such fluidity and flexibility, giving the sinuous melodies just the right highlights and phrasing. These are works where the violin is presenting a discourse, and Reiter’s approach seems flawless.

There is also a perfect balance among the other various instruments (harpsichord and cello; theorbo or baroque guitar in three of the sonatas), and the recording is impeccable. The sound comes across with such clarity and beauty that one is enraptured, especially when listening on headphones.

An excellent recording of some of Vivaldi’s earliest works. Far from being immature works, these sonatas take on a new dimension in this performance. Highly recommended.

Kirk McElhearn

  1. Sonata No 1 in G minor – Preludio Andante – – [3:37]
  2. – Giga Allegro – – [1:53]
  3. – Sarabanda Largo – – [2:12]
  4. – Corrente Allegro – – [1:43]
  5. Sonata No 2 in A major – Preludio ? Capriccio Presto – – [0:36]
  6. – Presto – – [0:27]
  7. – Corrente Allegro – – [1:30]
  8. – Adagio – – [1:08]
  9. – Giga allegro – – [2:22]
  10. Sonata No 3 in D minor – Preludio Andante – – [6:59]
  11. – Corrente Allegro – – [1:36]
  12. – Adagio – – [1:18]
  13. – Giga Allegro – – [1:42]
  14. Sonata No 4 in F major – Andante – – [3:40]
  15. – Allemanda Allegro – – [2:14]
  16. – Sarabanda Andante – – [3:33]
  17. – Corrente Presto – – [2:16]
  18. Sonata no 5 in B minor – Preludio Andante – – [3:25]
  19. – Corrente Allegro – – [2:25]
  20. – Giga Presto – – [1:18]
  21. Sonata No 6 in C major – Preludio Andante – – [6:20]
  22. – Allemanda Presto – – [1:21]
  23. – Giga Allegro – – [1:54]
  24. Sonata No 7 in C minor – Preludio Andante – – [2:26]
  25. – Allemanda Allegro – – [2:29]
  26. – Corrente Allegro – – [1:33]
  27. Sonata No 8 in G major – Preludio Largo – – [3:36]
  28. – Giga Presto – – [1:59]
  29. – Corrente Allegro – – [1:14]
  30. Sonata No 9 in E minor – Preludio Andante – – [6:01]
  31. – Cappriccio Allegro – – [1:19]
  32. – Giga Allegro – – [2:46]
  33. – Gavotta Presto – – [0:37]
  34. Sonata No 10 in F minor – Preludio Largo – – [3:40]
  35. – Allemanda Allegro – – [2:16]
  36. – Giga Allegro – – [2:13]
  37. Sonata No 11 in D major – Preludio Andante – – [5:37]
  38. – Fantasia Presto – – [1:27]
  39. – Gavotta Allegro – – [1:17]
  40. Sonata no 12 in A minor – Preludio Largo – – [4:27]
  41. – Cappriccio Presto – – [1:20]
  42. – Grave – – [1:47]
  43. – Allemanda Allegro – – [2:37]