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Mark Fewer, violin Hank Knox, harpsichord // VIVALDI Manchester Sonatas

Exceptional Duo Becomes First Canadian Artists to Record Exquisite Sonatas Unearthed from a Manchester, UK Library in 1973.

“I’d be glad to hear these gentlemen play anything … they make me want to hear whatever else they want to do. The
ensemble and intonation are perfect …” – American Record Guide


Leaf Music is proud to present a new recording of Vivaldi’s Manchester Sonatas featuring violinist Mark Fewer and harpsichordist Hank Knox. This is the first Canadian recording of the “Manchester” sonatas of Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741), a masterful collection of 12 works brought to light only in 1973. A follow up to their acclaimed 2018 recording of the Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord by J.S. Bach, this new recording from Fewer and Knox is available as of January 17, 2020.
These remarkable sonatas changed a great many hands over the centuries. When Cardinal Ottoboni – a patron of Vivaldi’s – died in 1740, a large number of manuscripts from his private collection were purchased by English classical scholar Edward Holdsworth. These manuscripts were then passed on to Charles Jennens, librettist of Handel’s Messiah. The scores came into the possession of several more collectors before coming to auction at Sotheby’s in London in 1918 and were acquired by renowned musicologist Newman Flower. When Flower died in 1964, his musical holdings were purchased by the Manchester Public Library, attracting the international attention of scholars and the media alike; Flower’s reputation as an eminent Handel scholar implied that important revelations concerning the musical giant were forthcoming.
However, a nearly exclusive focus on Handel resulted in the neglect of some of the other manuscripts, including these sonatas by Vivaldi which, despite being housed in Manchester’s Henry Watson Music Library from 1965 onward, were only discovered by British musicologist Michael Talbot in 1973.
The 12 “Manchester” sonatas, heard on the new album as arranged and recorded by Fewer and Knox in January 2019 at Eglise St. Augustin in Mirabel, Quebec, represent a high point of Vivaldi’s chamber music. The violin part offers complex compound melodies while the bass focuses primarily on its harmonic role, with both instruments free to improvise on the written score. Gramophone calls the sonatas “music of great beauty and vitality which will delight most if not all lovers of the late baroque.”
Known for his exceptional versatility, violinist Mark Fewer has been described as “intrepid” (The Globe and Mail) and “profound” (The WholeNote). His musical diet includes performances from the early baroque to the avantgarde, performing worldwide in famous halls such as Wigmore, Carnegie, and Pleyel, to smaller venues such as Le Poisson Rouge (NY), Bartok House (Budapest), and The Forum (Taipei). As a soloist, he has performed with the symphonies of Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec, San Francisco and Melbourne, as well as with groups such as the Fodens-Richardson Brass Band (UK), the Zapp Quartet (Amsterdam), and as a featured guest with Stevie Wonder and his band. He was a founding member of the Duke Piano Trio, has been a member of the Smithsonian Chamber Players for over 15 years, and was violinist with the St. Lawrence String Quartet at Stanford University. Artistic Director of the SweetWater Music Festival for 16 years, Fewer was appointed Artistic Director of Stratford Summer Music in 2019. A Juno and Prix Opus winner, he is currently Associate Professor of Violin at the University of Toronto.
Hailed internationally for his “colorful, kinetic performances,” Hank Knox performs on harpsichord in concert halls, churches, museums, galleries and homes around the globe. A founding member of Montreal’s Arion Baroque Orchestra, with whom he has toured North and South America, Europe, and Japan, Knox also regularly performs and tours with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Les Violons du Roy and l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, among other groups, ensembles and orchestras. He has released a number of acclaimed recordings on rare antique instruments as well as copies of historical instruments. He teaches in the Early Music program at McGill University where he conducts the McGill Baroque Orchestra and has also directed a great number of baroque operas.

Download or stream Vivaldi Manchester Sonatas here

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Halifax Violinist Releases CD, Into the Stone


Halifax violinist Gillian Smith will launch her debut album, Into the Stone, featuring music for solo violin by five Canadian women composers on September 25. Featured composers include Ana Sokolović. Kati Agócs, Alice Ping Yee Ho, Veronika Krausas and Chantale Laplante. The album is supported by The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR), and is on the Leaf Music label. It will be available on digital music services as of September 27 including iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify and can be pre-ordered on Amazon and iTunes. The CD draws its title from Krausas’s composition Inside the Stone inspired by a line by Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen, “What lives inside the stone? Miracles, strange light.”

A dynamic and intuitive performer, Gillian Smith enjoys a varied and exciting performance career as a violinist. Deeply committed to performing music by contemporary composers, she has recorded two CDs with members of the Acadia New Music Society on the Centrediscs label: Live Wired, which features the music of Derek Charke, Jérôme Blais, and Anthony Genge, and In Sonorous Falling Tones, which features the music of Derek Charke and which was nominated for an East Coast Music Award for Classical Recording of the Year in 2018. She can also be heard on a recording of the chamber music of Carmen Braden that will be released in November 2019.

Gillian Smith has appeared at such series and festivals as the Acadia Performing Arts Series, the East Coast Music Awards, Inner Space Concerts, the Music Room Chamber Players, Open Waters Festival, Shattering the Silence Festival, and Sunday Music in the Garden Room. She has also performed and recorded as an orchestral musician with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony, and Symphony Nova Scotia.

A dedicated teacher, Gillian Smith serves as instructor of violin and viola at the Acadia University School of Music and as head of the upper strings department at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts. Her students have won top prizes and awards in regional and national competitions.

Gillian Smith holds degrees in violin performance from the Eastman School of Music (B.Mus.), the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (M.Mus.), and the University of Minnesota (D.M.A). Her teachers have included Jorja Fleezanis, Camilla Wicks, Peter Salaff, and Philippe Djokic. You can learn more about her at https://gilliansmithviolin.com

This project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters. Ce projet est financé en partie par FACTOR, le gouvernement du Canada et les radiodiffuseurs privés du Canada.