iClassical [Recording of the Month]
This generously filled CD contains imaginatively interpreted, superbly performed Baroque concerti of the high standard we have to come to expect from these exceptional musicians during the year in which Rachel Podger will celebrate her 50th birthday. I have no hesitation in making this disc our CD of the Month and, even if you already own one or more versions of The Four Seasons, I would urge you to go out and buy this refreshing new account.
Radio 4 [CD of the Week]
The listener experiences colors, a tangible translation of the weather, human warmth and vulnerability. Together with her colleagues from Brecon Baroque, Rachel delivers almost unimaginable quality in these pieces.
(...) Ondanks de vele, vele opnamen van Vivaldi’s “Jaargetijden”, betekent deze opname, door de zeer virtuoze en bovendien, solistische uitvoering, een immense meerwaarde. Subliem.
Presto Classical [Recording of the Week]
What a treat, then, to listen with fresh ears to Rachel Podger's delightfully straightforward but unstintingly imaginative new recording with Brecon Baroque.
The Arts Desk
(...) this set from baroque violinist Rachel Podger and her hand-picked Brecon Baroque team is another wowzer (...) her subtle, intelligent solo playing is delicious and she's superbly accompanied (...) A gorgeous disc.
(...) une magnifique lecture de ces saisons rabâchées, tout en finesse et dont les sonnets, écrits pourtant après coup par le vénitien, servent de base à une interprétation exacerbant les éléments descriptifs. Mais ce n’est pas pour autant, le danger est écarté, une lecture anecdotique. Tout y est musicalité et poésie, avec une souplesse qui contredit la rigidité de certaines versions « informées .
Award: Crescendo JOKER
At any rate, Podger and her musicians produce a remarkably colorful performance, and fill out the rest of the album with three more violin concertos, Il Riposo per Il santissimo Natale, L'Amoroso, and Il Grosso Mogul, which give new listeners a chance to explore less familiar Vivaldi. Channel Classics recorded this album in St. Jude's Church, London, and the resonant but unobtrusive acoustics contribute to the group's vibrant sound. Highly recommended.
BBC Radio 3 – Recording of the Week
It’s colourful, vivid and dramatic, yet without pushing the cinematic illustrative elements too far. (...) it’s intimate and detailed (...) wonderfully communicative with a fluidity of phrasing and ease of spontaneity and ornamentation.
Rachel Podger, violinist and director of Brecon Baroque, performs the work with a select group of eight musicians, one to each part. So far from sounding spartan, this releases a freedom and buoyancy in the playing that is quite delightful.
Rachel Podger tries to make the music sound as if the ink dried up yesterday (...) breathtaking listening experience (...) the most beautiful interpretation of Le Quattro Stagioni in fifty years
Gramophone [Editor's Choice]
If ever a disc were self-recommending, this is it: one of today’s most consistently brilliant Baroque violinists, records one of the era’s most famed and engaging works. Enjoy! FULL REVIEW: It feels slightly unoriginal to begin a review by quoting that old adage, 'the best things come to those who wait'. However, those words do feel especially pertinent for Rachel Podger's Vivaldi Four Seasons, which she has finally put on disc in her 50th-birthday year, joined by her superlative one-to-a-part ensemble of fellow period-instrument leading lights, Brecon Baroque. It's not just that the actual playing is superb: serene virtuoso fluency from Podger, gorgeously supported by her colleagues, with some especially fine chamber matching from violinists Johannes Pramsohler and Sabine Stoffer. It's also that this is something genuinely, effortlessly and naturally different.
At the nub of this triumph is the thought that's gone into timbre and balance across the four concertos, because I've never heard their every twist and turn served up as quite the succession of changing sound worlds as appears here. Take Spring's ear-catching central Largo: while Brecon Baroque are hardly the first ensemble to place a spotlight on that barking-dog viola, it's less usual to hear the solo violin as far back as Podger has been placed, or the viola's crescendo at the end. It's then all change again for the final Allegro, Jan Spencer's violone cranking up the drone effect to especially zinging levels, complemented by the subtlest of peasanty inflections from the violins.
Other notable expressive detailing include the bringing out of Daniele Caminitti's expressive theorbo-playing in Summer's opening movement, where also to be savoured are the wistful inflections with which Podger has coloured her tight trills. Also the way she stretches out the central Adagio's final top G to almost hit the dramatic final-movement thunderstorm, itself brilliantly coloured with sul ponticello effects. Then there's the soft organ and theorbo continuo underpinning Autumn's buoyant, luminously ringing first movement. Or, perhaps most glorious of all, Winter's fireside Largo: a luxuriously tactile, tranquil feast of glowing ensemble raindrops whose beauty caught me completely off guard, topped by Podger's sensitively embellished solo line.
Podger and her team have been generous too, adding three further Vivaldi concertos, all of which have been realised with an equal ear to the scorings' possibilities for timbral flair. Even had they not done, though, this still would have been a Four Seasons to covet and keep.
"Le Quattro Stagioni" by Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque sounds the most intimate of the interpretations I know. (…) Thanks to the recording art of Jared Sacks, the selective microphones B & K and Schoeps and the DSD technique, the music gained exceptional fluidity, and at the same time is rich in detail and natural reverberation. The Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni album is complemented by three less popular Vivaldi concertos. A delight for an audiophile ear.
(...) Een fantastische violiste met élan, verfijning, een superieure techniek,een mooie toon en intelligent inzicht in alles wat ze speelt. (...) Als u Le Quattro stagione nog niet heeft (kan dat?), is dit de aangewezen versie.
Record Geijutsu Magazine [JAP]
CD of the Month - (...) An exciting listening experience that is very touching.
(...) the freshest, most joy-filled, and best-recorded of the bunch. Podger, who plays
with and directs her superb ensemble of eight, isn't interested in knocking you over the head with pyrotechnic wizardry or some bizarre 21st century take on Vivaldi's Top Hit of 1730. Instead, her sole desire, masterfully enabled by engineer Jared Sacks, is to honor the humor, invention, good spirits, and marvelous interplay of colors that have made Vivaldi's irresistibly tuneful concerto a perennial classic. (...) the recording puts a premium on color and space (...) optimally balances acoustic resonance with clarity of focus. (...) It's the playing, however, that puts Podger's version over the top.
The Sunday Times
(…) Rachel Podger's Midas touch makes even a warhorse such as Vivaldi's Four Seasons sound fresh-minted. She and her Brecon players see these concertos not as orchestral but as chamber music. Yet there is no lack of power in the big tuttis when the Spring dances are interrupted by downpours or the Summer storm breaks into balmier weather. This Vivaldi has an improvisatory quality, making you listen with cleansed ears.
(…) Podger's bouncy phrasing and clarity, myriad subtleties in textures and dynamics, the kindliness of a recording that, unlike some, allows the music and its reverberations to breathe. (…) entrancing and necessary album.
(...) Why should I bother with yet another recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons?" you may ask. "There are already 226 entries for it at arkivmusic.com!"
Because baroque violinist Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque's new, period instrument Channel Classics SACD of Le Quattro Stagioni and three other violin concertos by Vivaldi is likely the freshest, most joy-filled, and best-recorded of the bunch. (...) her sole desire, masterfully enabled by engineer Jared Sacks, is to honor the humor, invention, good spirits, and marvelous interplay of colors that have made Vivaldi's irresistibly tuneful concerto a perennial classic. (...) this native DSD production is demonstration class. (...)
(…) one's ear quickly adjusts to this [one instrument to a part], a decision that brings each of her trusted colleagues into the spotlight as much as the principal soloist and we are able to relish to the full the remarkable purity of the burnished sound and the colouristic opportunities offered to each instrumentalist, especially from the lute and theorbo. Needless to say Podger's peerless execution of the solo part in each concerto is beyond reproach. (…) a beautifully balanced recording (5.0 channel DSD) of unparalleled realism that perfectly recreates the fine acoustic of St. Jude's Church, London (…) a fresh, uplifting account of Vivaldi's ubiquitous masterpiece performed impeccably by one of the world's finest period violinists and recorded in state-of the art sound. What more needs to be said?
>> Performance: 5 stars Sonics (Stereo): 5 stars Sonics (Multichannel): 5 stars
The High Arts
This is not yet another recording of the Four Seasons. More importantly, this is not your standard historically informed account. This is fresh, insightful, well-thought-out, introspective music-making of the highest order.
Diapason [Diapason d'Or]
(…) These eternal Four Seasons make us dream, smile and shudder (…) her (RP) magnificent Brecon Baroque are masters of an impressive palette. (…) To me, Podger is definitely one of the most remarkable among Vivaldi performers. (…) A vibrant dynamic, an exceptional resolution, clearly separated timbres, an airy reverb! In short, a sound that lives.
Sorry to repeat myself, but this is yet another outstanding recording by Mrs. Podger.
Her ensemble, Brecon Baroque, isn’t particularly large. This conveys a nice sense of intimacy. The entire recording is extremely nuanced, subtle, but always joyful.
(...) fenomenale articulatie, scherpe ritmische profilering, volmaakte balans en doorzichtigheid. (...)Dan is er het speelplezier dat van deze uitvoeringen afspat, soms bijna improvisatorisch en het risico niet schuwend. (...) Kort samengevat is dit een prestatie van de bovenste plank. Zo opgenomen als door Jared Sacks telt echt ieder nootje, iedere minuscule oneffenheid en hun afwezigheid zegt veel over de technische kwaliteiten van dit ensemble, maar ook over de uiteindelijke montage (beluister maar eens het openingsdeel van ‘LEstate', om daarvan een eerste representatieve indruk te krijgen). Het komt erop aan, het luistert nauw, zéér nauw! Het is alweer behoorlijk lang geleden dat Channel Classics in het sacd-formaat uitbracht, maar dit is er weer een om te koesteren: geen overdreven afbeelding in 5.0, maar duidelijk de achterliggende gedachte om ‘de natuur het werk te laten doen'. Wat heb ik genoten van deze concerten!
Avec ce disque, Rachel Podger signe sans aucun doute la nouvelle version de référence du chef d’oeuvre de Vivaldi … et sans doute pour longtemps !
Album of the Week (April 23, 2018)