What better music than Vivaldi's Le Quattro Stagioni to start the celebration of Rachel's 50th birthday year! Together with the star players of Brecon Baroque, Rachel guides you through the seasons of nature and life.
Producer Jonathan Freeman-Attwood: The irresistible characterpieces that pit solo violin against string ensemble in Vivaldi's Le Quattro Stagioni have reached the ears of millions over the last few generations.
Most recordings adopt a strikingly similar approach to the scores, and familiarity has blunted the music's edge: we have passed the point of rediscovery and have stopped listening intently to the freshness of Vivaldi's invention.
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.
With two other deeply evocative works and that great bull of a concerto, Il Grosso Mogul , the experience is kaleidoscopic in the capacity of a single-part string band to press the boundaries of intimacy and, at the same time, to produce visceral fortes as dramatic as you'll here in any larger group. The musical range is sensational and matched all the way by Jared Sacks's luminous and emotionally engaged recorded sound.
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.
Richard Fairman - Financial Times
Why is it Record of the Week? So many reasons... It doesn't try too hard to be new, to be different, to be entertaining and yet it manages all those things without surrendering the elegance and grace that's part of Vivaldi's writing. It's colourful, vivid and dramatic, yet without pushing the cinematic illustrative elements too far. With the one per part strings it's intimate and detailed, lovely Continuo playing as well. I certainly don't find it small scale and the playing is wonderfully communicative with a fluidity of phrasing and ease of spontaneity and ornamentation that I find really pleasing. --BBC R3 Record Review 21.4.18 Andrew McGregor's Record of the Week
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. --Hugh Canning - Sunday Times
Want to freshen up a familiar meal? If you're a restaurant chef the answer seems to be infiltrating the dish with chillies, whether they suit your tastebuds or not. Luckily that's not an available option with music. In any case, there are other and better ways to inject spice. With baroque repertoire, for instance, I like to reach for Rachel Podger, the unsurpassed British glory of the baroque violin. A good sprinkling of Podger, backed by her international ensemble Brecon Baroque, and even the dullest dog leaps back to life.
Vivaldi's The Four Seasons is never dull, although it definitely suffers from overexposure. So why consider another recording? The answer lies in many things: 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.
I especially relished the interpretation's natural flow: no forced eccentricities, no extreme flights. There's also the exquisite balance of parts shared between Podger's eight-strong ensemble. Take the largo in Winter, where her warming solo line is delicately splattered by pizzicato raindrops from the accompanying strings: a lovely effect. Three other Vivaldi concertos, all welcome, but much less familiar, fill out this entrancing and necessary album. --Geoff Brown - The Times