Friday, 24 July 2015

Vivaldi - L'Estro Armonico - Brecon Baroque/Podger

Rating: 5/5

An outstanding recording

This is quite outstanding. I have heard a lot of performances of these concerti, but Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque bring something truly special to them.

These are some of Vivaldi's best-known concerti, and you'd think it was all but impossible to bring anything new to works like the B minor concerto, RV580 which Bach adapted for four harpsichords and which has been recorded so many times in all its guises, and yet it feels utterly fresh to me here. The tempo is brisk but there is no sense of hurry or strain, just a flowing, almost dancing feel with a subtle but perfectly judged driving pulse. There is a lovely lightness of touch but also real depth and thought in the music and the playing; I find myself feeling, "oh, *this* is how it should be played". The same is true throughout the disc, with a wonderful fluency which still invests the music with genuine intellectual and emotional content.

Podger and her small ensemble are simply brilliant. Technically, they are excellent, allowing even Vivaldi's most demanding pyrotechnic passages to sound utterly natural. They play together with superb cohesion and understanding, beautifully captured by the excellent recording, so that the whole thing is a joy from start to finish.

I have been a huge admirer of Rachel Podger's work since I first heard her wonderful solo Bach getting on for a decade ago.  Since then she has made a lot of extremely fine recordings and this is among the very best of them and I would recommend this set in the warmest terms. It's an absolute gem.

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