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Vivaldi: L'Estro Armonico - Podger

Vivaldi: L'Estro Armonico - Podger

Channel Classics  CC SSA 36515 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Vivaldi: L'Estro Armonico

Rachel Podger, violin
Brecon Baroque


The title of the collection encapsulates the qualities that so entranced Vivaldi’s contemporaries. L’estro armonico, which might be translated as ‘musical rapture’, reflects the vitality and freshness of Vivaldi’s invention: its rhythmic energy, melodic and harmonic intensity, textural sensuousness, performative brilliance and dramatic flair. For composers, these concertos offered a startlingly original blueprint in how to shape musical time through the articulation of a new functional - tonal style of contrasting keys and cadences, and – more profoundly still – how to develop musical ideas rationally and coherently into large-scale forms through the system of ‘ritornelli’ or ‘little returns’.

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Review by Graham Williams - March 5, 2015

This is the third marvellous release of Vivaldi Violin Concertos from Rachel Podger. On the two previous issues she was partnered first by the Polish group Arte dei Suonatori ( La Stravaganza)Vivaldi: La Stravaganza - Podger/Arte Dei Suonatori and second by Holland Baroque Society (La Cetra) Vivaldi: La Cetra - Rachel Podger, Holland Baroque Society, but here for 'L'Estro Armonico' it is her own superb Brecon Baroque who do the honours. Those who have acquired these previous issues will not be surprised to hear that this latest one matches their very high standard both in terms of performance and sound quality.

1711 was the year in which the Amsterdam publisher Estienne Roger published the first of Vivaldi's sets of concertos as Opus 3 with the title 'L'Estro Armonico' and it was these pieces that led to the composer achieving a celebrity reputation across Europe. They also had a considerable influence on many composers in other parts of the continent including Bach who transcribed six of the concertos for organ, harpsichord and harpsichord with strings. The 12 concertos that make up the set are laid out in four symmetrical groups each consisting of three concertos for four, two and one solo violins respectively. Cello concertante parts also make an appearance in four of the concertos (Nos.1,2, 10 and11) and the continuo group that includes harpsichord, organ, theorbo and guitar add much variety of texture.

'L'Estro Armonico' is notable for the sheer diversity found in these 12 concertos something that Rachel Podger and her colleagues in Brecon Baroque emphasise in the exuberance and sparkling vitality that they bring to all twelve concertos. Podger is joined by two of her former pupils Bojan Cicic in Concertos 5 and 8 and Johannes Pramsohler in Concertos 2 and 11; both specialists in historically informed performances and the absolute rapport between these artists is clear in their lightning exchanges.

Tempi are well chosen to allow the expressive elements of the music to register with maximum effect. This is especially true of the often poignant slow movements and the playing is a world away from some of the more frenetic and aggressive Vivaldi we are occasionally subjected to on recordings of period performances. The lively movements are played with both drive and a terpsichorean lightness while passages such as the opening of the second Concerto, with its striking resemblance to the start of 'Winter' in 'The Four Seasons', are given a real dramatic thrust.

The recordings took place in the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, London (February and September 2014) whose warm acoustic is ideal for this music. It need hardly be said that Jared Sacks has, as so often in this venue, achieved a clean and beautifully focused sound quality on these two SACDs that does full justice to the efforts of these dedicated musicians.

The two SACDs are supplied in the usual double Digipak with excellent liner notes by both Rachel Podger and Timothy Jones.

In every way an outstanding issue and an unqualified success for all concerned.

Copyright © 2015 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comments (1)
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Comment by Iain - January 13, 2016 (1 of 1)

I've just obtained this title over the past week and I fully concur with this review. The tone of it isn't mere rhetoric, as is typical of marketing statements. Feel comfortable taking the review quite literally, as it's the best work for performance and sound quality that I've heard from Channel Classics in quite some time.

You won't regret the purchase of this.