Rachel Podger, Holland Baroque Society – Vivaldi: La Cetra, Op. 9 (2012) [DSF DSD64/2.82MHz]

Antonio Vivaldi – La Cetra, Op. 9 – Rachel Podger, Holland Baroque Society (2012)
DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz  | Time – 01:57:26 minutes | 4,64 GB | Genre: Classical
Source: ISO SACD | © Channel Classics Records B.V. | Front Cover, Booklet
Recorded: September 2011, January 2012, Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam

In September 1728, Vivaldi met the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI in or near Trieste, where the emperor was supervising the construction of a new harbour. Charles was a great admirer of Vivaldi, and he gave him the title of knight and a golden chain with a medallion, and invited him to visit Vienna. In turn, Vivaldi gave the emperor a manuscript with a collection of concertos entitled ‘La Cetra’ (the cittern or lyre). It was probably no coincidence that the composer had used the same title for the Twelve Violin Concertos Opus 9 ‘La Cetra’ featured on this CD, which he published a year earlier through Le Cène in Amsterdam, with a dedication to the Emperor. According to the Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot, the lyre symbolised the great love of music of the Habsburgers. Earlier, in 1673, Giovanni Legrenzi had already dedicated an early anthology – likewise entitled La Cetra – to the-then Emperor Leopold I. Talbot also considers the use of scordatura (adjusted tuning of the strings) in the violin part of the 6th and 12th concertos of Opus 9 to be a homage to the Habsburg Emperor. The scordatura practice was indeed a popular tradition in Austria and Bohemia, as we know from the violin music of Biber and Schmelzer. Concerning the remarkable encounter between Emperor Charles and Vivaldi at Trieste in 1728, the Abbé Conti wrote: ‘The Emperor talked about music at length with Vivaldi. It is said that he told him more in two weeks than his ministers in two years.’

A search for the best recording of a given set of Vivaldi violin concertos gets easier with every new release from Rachel Podger. Her last effort for Channel Classics, a scintillating recording of the 12 concertos of La Stravaganza (Op. 4) simply blew away the existing competition (click here for review), and this one promises to do the same. Not that there are that many complete traversals of all 12 of these concertos, but after these commanding performances, recorded with Channel Classics’ signature attention to realistic sound reproduction, future applicants need not apply.
Podger is a dynamic and unfailingly accurate virtuoso with exceptional interpretive instincts that can turn an unimposing rhythmic accent, a tiny melodic figure, or a seemingly routine harmonic progression into a moment of surprise or sheer wonder not only at the technical facility but also at the unexpected expressive effect. These concertos are full of challenges for the soloist, and Podger, who has considerable experience not only with Vivaldi, but with Mozart, Bach, and Haydn, has no apparent fear of any of them. And she also is a confident leader, bringing her very capable orchestral colleagues perfectly along with her, not only concerning tempos, but more importantly into her personal conception of dynamics, her volatile phrasing and often relentless rhythmic thrust. This is what makes these performances so exciting, invigorating, and so memorably different from the Vivaldi we’ve previously known and loved from performers such as Fabio Biondi, Giuliano Carmignola, and Andrew Manze.
There’s nothing not to like in terms of the music, and there are interesting little tidbits of trivia, such as the C minor theme of the Largo in Concerto No. 1, which bears an all-too-striking resemblance to the theme of Bach’s G minor fugue in Book 1 of the WTC. For some reason the first movement of the D minor concerto (No. 8) is foisted on many third or fourth-year violin students, perpetuating the idea that Vivaldi is “easier Bach”. Well, it isn’t. And just listen to Podger’s no-holds-barred performance and you’ll want to slap a warning label on the work: “For Adults Only”.
The Holland Baroque Society is a superb ensemble—it reminds me of the Quebec-based Les Violons du Roy—a group of young and very talented musicians whose inherent youthful energy and technical virtuosity, not to mention serious dedication to their music, reassures us older types that the future of classical music is secure. Full disclosure: I happened to be in Amsterdam during these recording sessions, and sat in for an all-too-brief period. I can say without qualification that the sound you hear is absolutely faithful to the superb acoustics of Amsterdam’s Waalse Kerk and to the vibrant timbres of the Holland Baroque Society’s period instruments. (A wonderful thing about these performances is the way the instruments themselves and their unique colors are celebrated and exploited—not just the bowed strings, but also the lute, organ, and harpsichord.) When listening to this CD I turned the volume up just slightly past my normal listening level, and I was rewarded with a room-filling reproduction of what I’d heard in Amsterdam. “Uitstekend!” Highly recommended. -David Vernier, ClassicsToday

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
La Cetra, 12 Violin Concertos, Opus 9
Concerto No. 1 In C Major RV 181a
1 Allegro 3:40
2 Largo 3:25
3 Allegro 2:30
Concerto No. 2 In A Major RV 345
4 Allegro 3:58
5 Largo 2:04
6 Allegro 2:55
Concerto No. 3 In G Minor RV 334
7 Allegro Non Molto 3:46
8 Largo 3:20
9 Allegro Non Molto 3:11
Concerto No. 4 In E Major RV 263a
10 Allegro Non Molto 4:25
11 Largo 2:42
12 Allegro Non Molto 3:27
Concerto No. 5 In A Minor RV 358
13 Adagio – Presto 2:43
14 Largo 2:18
15 Allegro 3:04
Concerto No. 6 In A Major RV 348
16 Allegro 3:49
17 Largo 3:06
18 Allegro Non Molto 4:25
Concerto No. 7 In B-Flat Major RV 359
19 Allegro 2:54
20 Largo 2:11
21 Allegro 2:48
Concerto No. 8 In D Minor RV 238
22 Allegro 3:48
23 Largo 2:46
24 Allegro 2:35
Concerto No. 9 In B-Flat Major RV 530
25 Allegro 3:21
26 Largo E Spiccato 3:02
27 Allegro 2:36
Concerto No. 10 In G Major RV 300
28 Allegro Molto 3:30
29 Largo Cantabile 2:24
30 Allegro 2:56
Concerto No. 11 In C Minor RV 198a
31 Allegro 4:13
32 Adagio 2:12
33 Allegro 3:03
Concerto No. 12 In B Minor RV 391
34 Allegro Non Molto 4:53
35 Largo 2:17
36 Allegro 3:58

Rachel Podger, violin
Holland Baroque Society