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Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Podger

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Podger

Channel Classics  CCS SA 40318

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Vivaldi: Four Seasons, Il Riposo per Il S.S. Natale RV 270, Concerto L'Amoroso Rv 271, Concerto Il Grosso Mogul Rv 208

Rachel Podger (violin)
Brecon Baroque


Vivaldi penned more than 500 concertos. At least 214 of these are for solo violin and orchestra, but as Michael Talbot remarks, ‘scarcely a year passes without the announcement of some fresh discovery’. So what was the ‘concerto’ to Vivaldi? What about it did he love so much to have composed so many? In the decade before Vivaldi composed Le Quattro Stagioni.

Despite what this recorded collection suggests, few of Vivaldi’s instrumental works have programmatic titles. On the whole, titles gesture towards a general mood. Il Riposo and L’amoroso are examples of this indication of Affekt – indeed, both are united in their key of gleaming E major. The case of Il Grosso Mogul is stranger. There seems to be no known link between Vivaldi and the Indian court of the Grand Mughal, Akbar. The extreme virtuosity required by the soloist in the outer movements, as well as the long, fully written-out cadenzas, suggest a theatrical function. Perhaps Vivaldi performed it as a ‘theatre concerto’ as part of an opera plot set in India. French royalty, however, did play a huge role in the reception of Le Quattro Stagioni.

Producer Jonathan Freeman-Attwood writes:
“Working with Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque has been an object lesson in starting anew and identifying the ingredients which make ‘Le Quattro Stagioni’ great works. Virtuosity is non-negotiable here and Rachel has it in abundance. But it’s the colour, poetry, vibrancy and evocative characterisation of weather, human warmth and fragility, captured by the dynamic flux of Rachel interlocking with her colleagues in Brecon Baroque, that deliver near-unimaginable qualities in this music.”

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Review by Graham Williams - March 21, 2018

For the countless admirers of the playing of Rachel Podger and her Period group Brecon Baroque this latest recording of Vivaldi's 'Le Quattro Stagioni' (The Four Seasons) – the most celebrated four violin concertos drawn from his Op. 8 set of 12 violin concertos entitled 'Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione' (The Trial of Harmony and Invention) – will be a mandatory purchase.

Having already made superlative accounts for Channel Classics of Vivaldi's 'La Stravaganza' Op.4, 'La Cetra' Op.9 and 'L'Estro Armonico' Op.3 (the latter with Brecon Baroque) – thirty six concertos in total – it is perhaps not surprising that Podger has, until now, avoided adding to the hundreds of recordings of 'Le Quattro Stagioni' competing for attention in the catalogue. The violinist's celebration of her 50th birthday has been the stimulus for this latest enterprise and it proves to be worthwhile in every way.

The world-class virtuosi who together comprise Brecon Baroque have an unrivalled grasp of period style and this may be one reason why Podger decided to perform the work with one instrument to a part, a decision that brings each of her trusted colleagues into the spotlight as much as the principal soloist and director herself. The line-up consists of Johannes Pramsohler and Sabine Stoffer (violins), Jane Rogers (viola), Alison McGillivray (violoncello), Jan Spencer (violone), Daniele Caminiti (theorbo) and Marcin Świątkiewicz (harpsichord/chamber organ) who both individually and collectively contribute as much as the soloist to the success of these performances.

For some listeners used to performances with larger bodies of strings the relatively lean textures here may come as a shock, but one's ear quickly adjusts to this 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 as is the abundant imagination she displays in ensuring that every aspect of Vivaldi's pictorial imagery is perfectly defined for the listener. Pacing of the outer movements all four concertos is relaxed, but always full of rhythmic zest, while the reflective central movements are imbued with a mesmerising beauty, free from any indulgence.

Most (though by no means all) versions of 'The Four Seasons' on disc add one of more fillers to the main work. Here the theme of Vivaldi compositions with programmatic titles is continued with the addition of three such concertos – the intimate 'Il Riposo per Il Santissimo Natale', RV 270, the lyrical' Concerto L'Amoroso' RV271 and finally the spectacular 'Concerto Il Grosso Mogul' RV208 – that add up to give this SACD a generous total playing time of 75.24. Rachel Podger's lovely cantabile playing and seamless line characterise the first two of these concertos while her dazzling virtuosity is given free rein, especially in the scintillating cadenza that concludes the latter.

It will come as no surprise to discover that the Channel Classics team (recording engineer Jared Sacks and producer Jonathan Freeman-Attwood) have done full justice to these musicians by providing a beautifully balanced recording (5.0 channel DSD) of unparalleled realism that perfectly recreates the fine acoustic of St. Jude's Church, London where from the 9th to the 12th of October 2017 the sessions took place.

With the ever-burgeoning multiplicity of recordings of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' it is difficult for any newcomer to demand attention in what is arguably the most fiercely competitive market for any classical work. However, here we have 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?

Copyright © 2018 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comments (31)
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Comment by hiredfox - April 23, 2018 (1 of 31)

Quite simply, a gift from heaven. A Four Seasons for our time, baroque with expansive articulation and deep sensitivity but also with zest and vigour.

Please Jared do not ration us to Podger & Fisher only, recordings of this quality should be the meaning of SACD.

Unquestionably will be one of the finest discs of 2018 and awards will come tumbling in. If this doesn't receive a grammy there can be no justice in our world.

Comment by Jared Sacks - April 23, 2018 (2 of 31)

actually, I did not expect to be seeing so many awards, cd of the weeks, etc. coming in. With so many versions I would have been happy for us to just get a mention. Rachel does indeed have profound way of communicating with the listener which I seem to overlook having worked with her now for over 25 years. She has found great musicians to work with her (Brecon Baroque) and also working together with Jonathan Attwood who is a great baroque specialist to add his special knowledge to make the team complete.

Comment by Jan Arell - April 24, 2018 (3 of 31)

I agree. This disc is really exceptional. Both performance and sound quality

Comment by hiredfox - April 24, 2018 (4 of 31)

Can we not have the Amsterdam Sinfonietta at least back on SACD please Jared.

Comment by William Hecht - April 24, 2018 (5 of 31)

Not sure I understand why the whole of opus 8 wasn't done as opposed to filling out the seasons with individual concerti, but it is a terrific disc. And I second John's call for the Amsterdam Sinfonietta to return to sacd.

Comment by Disbeliever - April 26, 2018 (6 of 31)

Why do we need another Vivaldi The Four Seasons from R.Podger .The Channel Classics excerpts are excellent

Comment by breydon_music - May 2, 2018 (7 of 31)

Well, I think we always need another performance of anything if it brings something new to the party, and I have no doubt that this wonderful performance and recording do just that. But I share Bill's puzzlement that after lovely complete sets of Vivaldi's other opi (is that a word?) the opportunity wasn't taken to record the complete op.8 rather than add a few other miscellaneous concerti. Interesting too that Jared has declined to join the debate about his SACD issue policy. I guess his mind is made up on that, and sadly I don't suppose it has harmed his sales very much at all!

Comment by William Hecht - May 2, 2018 (8 of 31)

Well the last of my five tortured years of Latin classes was 52 years ago, but my recollection is that the plural of opus is opera, and just for laughs my auto correct function changed "of opus" to octopus. Ain't technology wonderful?

Comment by hiredfox - May 3, 2018 (9 of 31)

Well Bill it was Opus 8! Our should it have been Armis 8?

Comment by Gilbert Burnett - May 3, 2018 (10 of 31)

I guess Jared is hoping we will all accept downloads in future but I am afraid I am not really interested and he may be mistaken. I only buy Channel recordings if they are SACD as the downloads are too expensive by far. But wait! Just as we thought little silver discs were dead (or at least dying) we now have the MQA CD! Presumably the same manufacturing cost as redbook and works as redbook too. Stereo only though. Oppo have stopped producing players and who will be next? My local hifi dealer says no one comes in to buy disc players any more. (Will I be able to sell my Oppo 105 now that I have the 205?) The future gets more and more complicated. Universal seemed to have decided that there may be a future in Bluray but have also signed up to MQA. We must enjoy what we've got while it is still there and I have really enjoyed the Podger 4 Seasons.

Comment by Jared Sacks - May 3, 2018 (11 of 31)

Dear Channel fans,
I have not given up on SACDs, just being more conscious which recordings I press as SACD or normal. There are artists on Channel where we need to put our resources into promoting them as artists. (Paying for editorials, extra ads in music magazines, sending out extra promotional copies..etc..) The price difference of pressing helps to do this.
We are a promotion and marketing company first to promote our artists via the recordings - either physical or download. If they do well, then we can also do well. Though I would love nothing more than to have all recordings pressed into SACD's as this is my own special niche - the sacds is not going to help with promoting the artist directly. The costs I have had to build the nativedsd.com and the new Channel site have also been enormous plus I will not burden you with the costs of all the cds we have in stock just sitting there starting form our first release back in 1990! (all paid for).
Luckily there are artists like Rachel Podger and her new 4 Seasons (now no. 1 in the Charts in England) that help us to cover costs. Small wonders..
I do thank you all for your continued support of our artists on Channel.

Comment by hiredfox - May 3, 2018 (12 of 31)

Fair enough Jared and I guess we do understand your dilemma - please just add the Amsterdam Sinfonietta to your list of SACD pressings, surely they are widely known enough and well supported to not fall in the "promotional support needed" category. We missed at least one of their releases last year.

Are you sure enough people will buy downloads enthusiastically? Much of the commentary I read suggests modern listeners do not want to own their music and are happy to stream it in real time on demand. Just like listening to live concerts on the radio which is all streaming is at heart.

Comment by hiredfox - May 3, 2018 (13 of 31)

Gilbert.

Marantz, Esoteric, Accupahse and others are still producing state of the art SACD players of outstanding SQ.

Marantz's basic SA 8005 model is by all accounts excellent at around US$750 and the Marantz flagship disc spinner the mightily impressive SA 10 Reference model US$8.5k reads SACD discs in DSD and keeps the signal in the DSD mode throughout the machine. Not a sniff of PCM processing in there. Marantz 'though stick to stereo only machines so not for everyone.

There is also a very lively market for pre-owned SACD machines on e-Bay and Audiogon where anything with an Oppo or Marantz brand label attracts huge interest and auction activity.

There is still plenty of life in the old dog yet.

John

Comment by fausto kantiano - August 7, 2018 (14 of 31)

Channel Classics gave up on SACD....but now ventures into vinyl! https://twitter.com/channelclassics/status/1026843393832484864

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - August 17, 2018 (15 of 31)

Many multi-channel listeners should, like me, be worried that within a matter of time no more high quality SACD multi-channel or ditto universal players will be produced. Stereo only seems to be the way ahead. It’s understandably all demand driven. And then what to do with a (large) SACD collection if your machine breaks down. Some Oppo’s are still around and Cambridge DAC’s convert DSD immediately into PCM, which is not helpful for downloaded DSD files. Any suggestions?

But this is only one side of the coin. Why should companies continue to put a multi-layer on their discs if the average music lover no longer disposes of a player that can read it?

Even downloaded material may go that way, since feeding 8 channel DSD into a multi-channel amp is, with Oppo gone, by no means an affordable affair (look at Jared’s Native DSD data base). The $ 3800 plus ExaSound e38 comes closest.

Comment by hiredfox - August 18, 2018 (16 of 31)

As long as there is a vibrant market for SACD in Japan then the Japanese hardware companies will keep making players but as that market seems to favour Stereo there will be little incentive for Marantz for example to produce mch players. The other significant country at the forefront of SACD is The Netherlands with three superb recording companies continuing to raise the bar for recording standards and an enterprising technology company that has embraced SACD recording in Grimm. Maybe they and other entrepreneurial companies will produce players one day.

Never forget that vinyl was virtually dead and buried in the 80's only to re-emerge in the Naughties stronger than ever, simply because enough people cared about analogue SQ.

We may have to live through this cycle again before the true value of DSD recorded SACD sound is properly appreciated by the wider music market.

Most colleagues will not have had the opportunity to listen to the new Marantz SA 10 stereo player that reads and keeps data in the DSD regime throughout the player with no PCM sampling anywhere to be seen. Hearing is believing in this case, the SQ of this player using DSD recorded material is a class above anything else that you will have heard. That gives me hope for the future.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - August 19, 2018 (17 of 31)

Hi John,

Thanks for your contribution. I agree that Super Audio is still alive for the happy few. What I am worried about is the multi-channel bit. Prime quality SACD players continue to be produced, but two channel only. My last multi SACD player was a Linn, since a number of years out of production. Nowadays the multi-fans have to be content with universal players, even if they don’t really need the video. Problem is that these don’t accept DSD all the way down, like your beautiful Marantz does. Cambridge accept DSF64 files, but the DAC convert them straight away into PCM. I have to live with my Oppo - sadly on the way out - until it dies. And then what? Perhaps I should acknowledge your optimism, but then hopefully in multi-channel as well!

Adrian

Comment by Wolfspaw - August 19, 2018 (18 of 31)

Sony high end Blu-ray players still have Sacd capabilities and they are probably the best budget player out there for multi-channel. Emotiva has a 3k pre-amp(new model coming later this year?) that can decode multi-channel dsf files and convert direct to analog(it's not cheap I know). As for as that goes, even if the drive on the Oppo fails, they can decode dsf files from their USB ports and that capability is probably going to last longer than any drive.

See http://help.nativedsd.com/handling-and-playing-dsd-files/hardware-specific-guides/playing-dsd-on-oppo-machines-explained

Pick up some current Sony machines to stock up for the future for playing discs, and keep the Oppo for USB playback (just an idea). I have a couple of Oppo's and a couple of old Sony sacd ES players that I have been able to keep using by replacing their laser assemblies.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - August 20, 2018 (19 of 31)

Thanks Wolfspaw

Comment by William Hecht - August 26, 2018 (20 of 31)

The potential disappearance of mc players is exactly why my Oppo 83 and 103 still have houseroom as I upgraded through the chain to the 205. They are nicely packed away in their original cartons and someday my kids will probably be able to sell them for more than I originally paid.

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