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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

on 14 October 2015
This is real treat for the ears. Rachel Podger has the perfect blend of intelligence, inventiveness, spontaneity and technical acumen in this music. She conveys all the imagination and sheer joy of Vivaldi's writing with a wonderfully sweet-toned, perfectly articulated sound. The Holland Baroque Society are in complete harmony with her, rhythmically alive and endlessly energetic. The recorded sound is present, detailed and warm. Baroque playing doesn't get much better than this.
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on 30 June 2012
Vivaldi's Opus 9 (evocatively entitled "La Cetra") is a very rewarding set of concertos and a new recording is well-deserved.

I have heard two previous period instrument accounts - Kraemer on EMI and Hogwood on L'oiseau-lyre - so I was keen to see how this recording would compare. The answer is very well.

Podger and colleagues play with plenty of fizz. Indeed, one of the many strengths of this version is the lack of predictability and routine. There are numerous little touches that make this feel like a spontaneous performance rather than a recording and the music benefits greatly.

Podger's playing is superb and the orchestra is equally adept. The colourful continuo (organ, harpsichord and two lutes) adds real variety of colour.

The sound quality is excellent too.

I do have a couple of minor criticisms.

The main one is that in a couple of places the plucked continuo instruments strum rather too forcefully. It's particularly disconcerting at one point during the finale to concerto number 4; a movement that is not well-suited to such force.

The other issue I have is the strange opening to the set. Rather than just starting at the first bar of the first concerto, the band plays an improvisation - lasting 20 seconds or so - that leads into the first bar. There is a rather engaging interview video with Podger on YouTube in which she explains the origins of this idea, but it is still a but too wacky for me. It's stylish enough though and maybe I will get used to it.

Such comments aside though, this is a very exciting and entertaining account of La Cetra.

As regards the competition, Hogwood's set is very fine, although the tone of Standage's solo violin is a little sharp and the recorded sound has always seemed a little bright to me. Kraemer's set is excellent, but just a little short on vitality here and there (eg the finale to number 6).

I am tempted to say that Podger and co have the edge over both these sets. It's a close-run race, but I think I shall return to her set more readily from here on.

All in all then, this is a set I can recommend highly.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 January 2014
This set of twelve concertos was recorded in early 2012. The recording was made in the resonant acoustics of a church. In addition, the recording is closely balanced with a very substantial bass presence. This emphasis makes the solo violin more of a part with the whole rather than being spotlit as a separate solo entity. Finally, the recording is transferred to disc at a very high level which emphasises all the above points. In order to get a more realistic balance as if one were in the audience rather than being one of the players, it is necessary to reduce the playback level by some 4 decibels. At that point there is a considerable improvement and the bass becomes less dominant.

Rachel Podger brings a relatively light touch to these works when compared to various Italian groups that have been recorded recently and who favour very dramatic renderings of Vivaldi's concertos. There are no direct comparisons currently available of these Opus 9 concertos at the moment though so that may be jumping to conclusions before the event.

The key thing to note about this set of 12 concertos is the title which translated means 'the lyre.' That was an essentially gentle instrument and that may well explain the absence of much of the display element in the solo writing of these concertos. Vivaldi is arguably much more concerned with integrating the soloist with the other players throughout these concertos. That is not to say that the concertos are anything less than demanding for the player, but Rachel Podger is justified in concentrating on blending rather than displaying her capabilities in this set.

Within this more limited approach to the compositions in terms of display and drama, Vivaldi is still inventive such as by using the device of tuning the soloist's strings to alternative notes, called scordatura tuning, which enables the player to mimic other instruments. An example of this is the twelfth concerto where the soloist, by being alternatively tuned, is able to sound more like a viol. Other devices like contrasting loud chords with soft rapid scale passages as in the fourth concerto or simply echoing ideas with softer repeated sections are regularly used.

None of these ideas is unique to this set however and one is left with the conclusion that, in general terms, this set of concertos is aptly named 'La Cetra.' Another way of putting it of course, is that by choosing this title as the overall theme, Vivaldi was correct to adopt a less dramatic and display based style. In this way these concertos differ significantly from the opus 3, 4 and 8 sets plus the majority of solo violin concertos written individually.

I would therefore suggest that, especially as Rachel Podger has the field to herself at present, this imaginative set deserves serious consideration as a set to compare and contrast with the other more familiar sets of L'Estro Armonico Op.3, La Stravaganza Op.4 or the Trials of Harmony and Invention Op.8. Providing that it is set a a lower replay level than usual the recordings will still sound well and will give much satisfaction. A fine achievement by all the players concerned even if the recording makes the orchestra sound more muscular that it probably was in reality.
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on 27 November 2012
The playing is superb, recording equally so, you can feel the emotions, vigor and sensitivity and I did not realize that I could so enjoy this type of music
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on 3 April 2016
Absolutely superb rendition of these works, sadly not aired enough on such as Classic FM (I am willing to be disabused but the top hundreds seem to be always clogged with more composers such as Vaughan Williams — although I do like some of his works, Shostakovitch, Stravinsky, and modern composers - Henry Kelly selected a more reliably eclectic mix) which goes for much of Vivaldi's extensive collection.

Podger delivers as always, the opening bars of Concerto No. 1 in C major, RV 181a are sheer magic. I have a hunch this was used by the minstrels at Beaulieu to begin those Medieval (yes I know the period is out) in the early 1970s.

Podger's combination with Andrew Manze on Bach: Solo & Double Violin Concertos (BWV 1041-1043, 1060) is also well worth looking up. When I try to insert a product link it points to "ASIN:1459681428 The Doctors Who's Who: Celebrating Its 50th Year: The Story Behind Every Face Of The Iconic Time Lord" for some reason.
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on 18 August 2012
It is often said that Vivaldi's works all sound similar but Rachel Podger has achieved an outstanding success in these recordings.
She has managed to bring warmth,colour and a new richness to his music. All 12 concertos are excellently performed This is a must for
any collection! Alan
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on 27 June 2012
No doubts that this is a 'curiosa' assemblage of lesser known petite-scale-Vivaldi-concertos with the occasional scattered tiny semi-precious-stones here and there - not even close to Vivaldi 4-seasons glory, and do not expect a four-seasons-for-runner here...
My concern here is more with the audio properties of this 2-SACD set.

During the first few minuets of listening to this SACD recording one is reminded of the sonic properties or finger print if you will, of the now legendary, analogue recording "Music ancient du Greece" made in the seventies by French Harmonia-Mundi (which also features period instruments), or to the "Devil's Trill" - Palladian Ensemble SACD recording by Linn (also with period instruments - and also recorded in a church) - but the similarity in sonic and sonority with this La-Cetra ends right there;
Where the French Harmonia-Mundi recording and the Linn SACD Palladians recording (featuring Tartini and Veracini) has more body, more focus, more presence, more depth and clues about the instruments location in relationship to each other - this Channel-Classics SACD (listened to in multichannel mode) has too much reverberation, haze throughout the sound field and around the instruments which lends it an added vagueness.
And what's more; the engineers went out-board here, with the rear channels emphasized beyond proportion to the front channels;
one has to tame the rear-channel's volume DRASTICALLY (almost attenuating them to zero output) in order to achieve any sensible sound-picture of what's going on on the front channels.

Simply put, the more one listens to this recording the more one become tired of that church acoustics, the reverberation captured and the haze that prevail there.
For such a bonbon-pack-low-key Vivaldi oeuvres this is wrong.
Make no mistake; the recording chain used here is one of the best in the business: Best calibrated microphones (too many of those for that simple revenue), great interconnect cables, best Analogue to Digital converter by Grim Audio, etc... and yet, and yet...
A good small to mid-size hall, furnished, draped and carpeted, would have done more justice to these Vivaldi short 'concert pieces'.

As it stands right now, this is not a very attractive SACD offer and certainly the praises endowed on this item are grossly misleading.
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on 1 April 2014
What a superb recording. Rachael Podger brings this music to life - what a tallent! This has been listened to time and time again.
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on 6 April 2016
A must for all Vivaldi lovers. Rachel Podger is superb. Fantastic album. Wonderful sound quality too.
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on 15 September 2015
Hot posh tottie playing violins. It doesn't get any better than this.
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Vivaldi: "La Cetra" 12 Concerti, Op. 9

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