MusicWeb International ROTM and ROTY
This could have been the shortest review I ever wrote, even in my regular Second Thoughts and Short Reviews round-ups. Quite simply put, this is now one of the top recommendations in a very competitive field, among the top two or three on period instruments and at least equal with my top choice on modern instruments. (...)
Aidio Rewiew Italy
Vivaldi, “Le Quattro Stagioni” nella splendida lettura della Podger anche vinille”
Toccata - CD of the Month
(…) erstklassiger Klangkörper und eine exzellente Solistin, die charmant und
sympathisch ihren Part gestaltet. Wie schön das ist, stellt man mit jeder Minute
des Zuhörens fest (…) Rache! Podger ist und bleibt die Solistin, ihr Violinspiel ist
magisch und magnetisch zugleich. Aber, und das ist so entscheidend wie wichtig, sie
spielt aus der Gruppe heraus! Es ist ein Oktett, welches hier agiert, jeder ist gleich
wichtig. Und sehr oft lässt Rachel Podger hier ihren Freunden Raum fu?r deren
Gestaltung. Das wollte Vivaldi, das wollte Rachel Podger, das will auch der Hörer!
Classica - Disc du Mois - 3 stars
(...) L’instrument de Rachel Podger est un modèle d’élégance, décliné en une variété
de phrasés et d’ornements qui collent au plus près à la ligne mélodique. (...)
Crescendo [JOKER] -
(...) une magnifique lecture de ces saisons rabâchées, tout en finesse et dont les sonnets, écrits pourtant après coup par le vénitien, servent de base à une interprétation exacerbant les éléments descriptifs. Mais ce n’est pas pour autant, le danger est écarté, une lecture anecdotique. Tout y est musicalité et poésie, avec une souplesse qui contredit la rigidité de certaines versions « informées .
Award: Crescendo JOKER
The Arts Desk
(...) this set from baroque violinist Rachel Podger and her hand-picked Brecon Baroque team is another wowzer (...) her subtle, intelligent solo playing is delicious and she's superbly accompanied (...) A gorgeous disc.
Luister  -
(...) Een fantastische violiste met élan, verfijning, een superieure techniek,een mooie toon en intelligent inzicht in alles wat ze speelt. (...) Als u Le Quattro stagione nog niet heeft (kan dat?), is dit de aangewezen versie.
"Le Quattro Stagioni" by Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque sounds the most intimate of the interpretations I know. (…) Thanks to the recording art of Jared Sacks, the selective microphones B & K and Schoeps and the DSD technique, the music gained exceptional fluidity, and at the same time is rich in detail and natural reverberation. The Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni album is complemented by three less popular Vivaldi concertos. A delight for an audiophile ear.
The High Arts -
This is not yet another recording of the Four Seasons. More importantly, this is not your standard historically informed account. This is fresh, insightful, well-thought-out, introspective music-making of the highest order.
(...) Ondanks de vele, vele opnamen van Vivaldi’s “Jaargetijden”, betekent deze opname, door de zeer virtuoze en bovendien, solistische uitvoering, een immense meerwaarde. Subliem.
Record Geijutsu Magazine [JAP] -
CD of the Month - (...) An exciting listening experience that is very touching.
(...) fenomenale articulatie, scherpe ritmische profilering, volmaakte balans en doorzichtigheid. (...)Dan is er het speelplezier dat van deze uitvoeringen afspat, soms bijna improvisatorisch en het risico niet schuwend. (...) Kort samengevat is dit een prestatie van de bovenste plank. Zo opgenomen als door Jared Sacks telt echt ieder nootje, iedere minuscule oneffenheid en hun afwezigheid zegt veel over de technische kwaliteiten van dit ensemble, maar ook over de uiteindelijke montage (beluister maar eens het openingsdeel van ‘LEstate', om daarvan een eerste representatieve indruk te krijgen). Het komt erop aan, het luistert nauw, zéér nauw! Het is alweer behoorlijk lang geleden dat Channel Classics in het sacd-formaat uitbracht, maar dit is er weer een om te koesteren: geen overdreven afbeelding in 5.0, maar duidelijk de achterliggende gedachte om ‘de natuur het werk te laten doen'. Wat heb ik genoten van deze concerten!
BBC Radio 3 – Recording of the Week
It’s colourful, vivid and dramatic, yet without pushing the cinematic illustrative elements too far. (...) it’s intimate and detailed (...) wonderfully communicative with a fluidity of phrasing and ease of spontaneity and ornamentation.
Why should I bother with yet another recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons you may ask.
Because baroque violinist Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque's new, period instrument Channel Classics recording of Le Quattro Stagioni and three other violin concertos by Vivaldi is likely the freshest, most joy-filled, and best-recorded of the bunch. Podger, who plays with and directs her superb ensemble of eight, isn't interested in knocking you over the head with pyrotechnic wizardry or some bizarre 21st century take on Vivaldi's Top Hit of 1730. Instead, her sole desire, masterfully enabled by engineer Jared Sacks, is to honor the humor, invention, good spirits, and marvelous interplay of colors that have made Vivaldi's irresistibly tuneful concerto a perennial classic.
Available in Stereo and Surround DSD, in download resolutions up to DSD 256 or DXD — I auditioned it in DSD128. The recording puts a premium on color and space. Set down in St. Jude's Church, London, which is completely not immune to the very occasional low rumble from passing traffic or, perhaps, the Underground, the recording optimally balances acoustic resonance with clarity of focus. With period instrument timbres far less homogenized than their modern counterparts. The sound of theorbo in the adagio of one of the recording's infinitely lovely companion concertos, Il Riposo per Il S.S. Natale, is to savor over and over. The recording puts a premium on color saturation, interplays and contrasts without ever drawing attention to itself. Made with the Horus Analog to DSD 256 converter and Pyramix Editing Software from Merging Technologies and Van den Hul cables, this native DSD production is demonstration class.
It's the playing, however, that puts Podger's version over the top. You may not know the program of The Four Seasons, but the ever-popular first movement, La Primavera (Spring), includes violins imitating trilling birds, and scoring designed to maximize the feelings of height, space, and the freedom that spring brings (for everyone except the seriously allergic). Having interviewed Podger, and found her every bit as charming as her playing, it's clear that her hand-picked ensemble is filled with musicians who share her delight in music, sound, and life. With no pun intended, this is one of the gayest versions of La Primavera I've ever encountered.
With the second movement, L'Estate (Summer), populated by flies and mosquitoes, thunder from an approaching storm, and the inward ruminations of an occasionally bitten, storm-threatened shepherd; the third movement, L'Autunno (Autumn) centering around a drunken fool who so annoys the ensemble that they determine to do him in; and the close, L'Inverno (Winter), replete with shivering limbs and chattering teeth that eventually warm by the fireside as raindrops hit the window pane, The Four Seasons is ripe with narrative and humor. Once you know what it's about, you can savor all of that in this recording.
Because the three other concertos are not as well known—Vivaldi, after all, wrote at least 214 of his over 500 concertos for violin and orchestra—is no reason to write them off. The intentionally light scoring of the aforementioned Il Riposo (The Rest) allows for an overabundance of lovely, sweet felicities that transform time and space into a wonderland come true. Concerto L'Amoroso (The Lover) is just as sweet, while the closing Concerto, Il Grosso Mogul (The Great Mogul) is a grand, slashing tour-de-force. Most likely a fantasy written for a theatrical performance or opera set in India (by someone who had never visited India), it serves as a foil to the two short concertos that precede it, and enables us to rise from our seats refreshed and optimistic.
Gramophone [Editor's Choice]
If ever a disc were self-recommending, this is it: one of today’s most consistently brilliant Baroque violinists, records one of the era’s most famed and engaging works. Enjoy!
Radio 4 [CD of the Week]
The listener experiences colors, a tangible translation of the weather, human warmth and vulnerability. Together with her colleagues from Brecon Baroque, Rachel delivers almost unimaginable quality in these pieces.
Financial Times -
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.
Presto Classical [Recording of the Week]
What a treat, then, to listen with fresh ears to Rachel Podger's delightfully straightforward but unstintingly imaginative new recording with Brecon Baroque.
Album of the Week (April 23, 2018)
IClassical [Recording of the Month]
This generously filled CD contains imaginatively interpreted, superbly performed Baroque concerti of the high standard we have to come to expect from these exceptional musicians during the year in which Rachel Podger will celebrate her 50th birthday. I have no hesitation in making this disc our CD of the Month and, even if you already own one or more versions of The Four Seasons, I would urge you to go out and buy this refreshing new account.
The Times -
(…) 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. (…) entrancing and necessary album.
The Sunday Times
(…) 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.
Avec ce disque, Rachel Podger signe sans aucun doute la nouvelle version de référence du chef d’oeuvre de Vivaldi … et sans doute pour longtemps !
Sorry to repeat myself, but this is yet another outstanding recording by Mrs. Podger.
Her ensemble, Brecon Baroque, isn’t particularly large. This conveys a nice sense of intimacy. The entire recording is extremely nuanced, subtle, but always joyful.
(…) one's ear quickly adjusts to this [one instrument to a part], a decision that brings each of her trusted colleagues into the spotlight as much as the principal soloist 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. (…) a beautifully balanced recording (5.0 channel DSD) of unparalleled realism that perfectly recreates the fine acoustic of St. Jude's Church, London (…) 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?
>> Performance: 5 stars Sonics (Stereo): 5 stars Sonics (Multichannel): 5 stars
(...) Why should I bother with yet another recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons?" you may ask. "There are already 226 entries for it at arkivmusic.com!"
Because baroque violinist Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque's new, period instrument Channel Classics SACD of Le Quattro Stagioni and three other violin concertos by Vivaldi is likely the freshest, most joy-filled, and best-recorded of the bunch. (...) her sole desire, masterfully enabled by engineer Jared Sacks, is to honor the humor, invention, good spirits, and marvelous interplay of colors that have made Vivaldi's irresistibly tuneful concerto a perennial classic. (...) this native DSD production is demonstration class. (...)
At any rate, Podger and her musicians produce a remarkably colorful performance, and fill out the rest of the album with three more violin concertos, Il Riposo per Il santissimo Natale, L'Amoroso, and Il Grosso Mogul, which give new listeners a chance to explore less familiar Vivaldi. Channel Classics recorded this album in St. Jude's Church, London, and the resonant but unobtrusive acoustics contribute to the group's vibrant sound. Highly recommended.
De Gelderlander -
Rachel Podger tries to make the music sound as if the ink dried up yesterday (...) a breathtaking listening experience (...) the most beautiful interpretation of Le Quattro Stagioni in fifty years