Vivaldi: Le Quatro Stagioni

Vivaldi: Le Quatro Stagioni
Il Riposo, L’Amoroso, and Il Grosso Mogul
Rachel Podger, Brecon Baroque
Channel Classics CCS SA 403318. 75’24

Although the Four Seasons sounds much better in Italian, it doesn’t hide the fact that this is yet another recording of the inevitable old favourite. Despite there being squillions of other recordings available, a new one will probably guarantee good sales, not least because people do seem to like what they know. And they do know the Four Seasons, even if the CD title of Le Quatro Stagioni might confuse them a little. Vivaldi wrote more than 200 concertos for violin and orchestra, For the more discerning listener, there has to be something distinctive to separate any new recording out from the competition. And, boy, haven’t some people tried something distinctive. Rachel Podger and her Brecon Baroque avoid the ‘distinctive’ route and instead focus on intelligent music-making, aided by sensitive articulation, sensible speeds and appropriate accompaniments. 

Alongside Podger are two violins, viola, cello, and a continuo group of violone, theorbo, and harpsichord or chamber organ – all period or period influenced. Despite many competing recordings, this is all you need, the clarity of the ensemble bringing a freshness and sparkle to the sound. Another thing that sets this recording apart from most others are the three additional violin concertos, Il Riposo per Il santissimo Natale, L’Amoroso, and the expansive Il Grosso Mogul, all given fine interpretations. The recording acoustic is a little resonant for the essential chamber nature of the music, but acceptable nonetheless.

I opened my review of Rachel Podger’s concert during the 2015 Tage Alter Musik Regensburg thus – “Before she started playing, she wandered around the entire audience giving everybody a huge hug. She didn’t, of course, but it felt like that, given the warmth of her broad grin and inclusive approach to her audience. Here was a player who wanted us all to feel involved.” So perhaps it is appropriate that, amongst the huge variety of digital formats available (see here) is an MP3 version that “includes a free virtual hug“! The booklet can be downloaded from the same website.