Vivaldi: La stravaganza - 12 concerti, Op. 4 (2SACD)

Boutique Labels
Current Stock:
Rachel Podger, Arte Dei Suonatori Baroque Orchestra

Building a Library
November 2017
First Choice




"Immersing myself in the 12 Concertos of ‘La Stravaganza’ was an intense and exhilarating experience, and one which has left me full of wonder at Vivaldi’s seemingly endless capacity for invention. Having had many opportunities to get to know his music ever since I started playing the violin (the well-loved A minor Concerto from L’estro Armonico is one of the set pieces in Suzuki’s violin method and played by most 6-10 year olds!), the Seasons and L’estro featuring strongly in baroque concert programmes, it was with interest but also a number of pre-conceptions that I approached these relatively obscure concertos. I rather arrogantly assumed I’d have to put my mind to making them sound as different from each other as possible, as they probably wouldn’t assert their own character within the set by themselves. I’m ashamed of that thought now, since I quickly realised that I wasn’t dealing with ‘samey’ music at all, but with extreme inventiveness within a definite framework. Vivaldi uses melodic figurations in so many remarkable ways. It’s as though he likes to experiment with every possible variant and push the players beyond expectation of what might be coming next.

Having said that, the most predictable comment about his music is that his music is predictable! But listen, for example, to the last movement of Concerto no.1, where we see him first setting up a simple phrase, experimenting with the opening figure (first 2 bars) in minimal ways, taking us unexpectedly (unpredictably!) into a new key just when we expect the solo part to take charge. For 111 bars he lets his imagination run riot with this very simple opening figure, transforming it and avoiding any obvious phrasing that the listener might assume. This way, he creates a wonderful spirit of exploration in the music. Fragments of figurations are often thrown from one part to the next in the orchestra, later making up a whole phrase. Vivaldi also uses very simple tools by, for instance, making the tune leap across the two violin parts: there is an ascending triadic figure which goes to-and-fro between the fiddles as a variation on a similar tune heard earlier in a single part within the orchestra (Concerto no.3, first movement). His citing of a tune, repeating it twice note-by-note and then changing it at the last minute is often both witty and clever (like in Concerto no.5, first movement, during the 4th tutti section).

Vivaldi conveys so much variety and character; it feels easy to perform as the language is so direct and the expression within looks candidly at you from the page. The sublime slow movements (such as in Concertos nos. 1 and 11) recall descriptions or paintings of paradise where you literally feel like you’re hovering on a cloud for the duration of the movement… and the demon-like moments in Concerto no.8 (first movement) make you believe you’re being devoured by hungry tigers."
- Rachel Podger

Year of release: 2003

- - - - -


Concerto In B Flat, Opus 4 No. 1 08:43
1. Allegro 02:56
2. Largo e cantabile 03:16
3. Allegro 02:31

Concerto In E Minor, Ous 4 No. 2 10:20
4. Allegro 04:12
5. Largo 03:08
6. Allegro 02:59

Concerto In G Major, Opus 4 No. 3 08:19
7. Allegro 02:51
8. Largo 02:32
9. Allegro assai Vialdi 02:56

Concerto In A Minor Opus 4 No. 4 08:21
10. Allegro 03:12
11. Grave e sempre piano 02:44
12. Allegro 02:24

Concerto In A Major, Opus 4 No. 5 09:33
13. Allegro 03:44
14. Largo 02:38
15. Allegro 03:10

Concerto In G Minor, Opus 4 No. 6 09:38
16. Allegro 02:38
17. Largo 03:13
18. Allegro 03:46

Concerto In C Minor, Opus 4 No. 7 07:50
19. Largo 02:04
20. Allegro 02:05
21. Largo 01:39
22. Allegro 02:00

Concerto In D Minor, Opus 4 No. 8 07:07
23. Allegro 01:34
24. Adagio-Presto-Adagio 02:23
25. Allegro 03:09

Concerto In F Major, Opus 4 No. 9 07:09
26. Allegro 02:50
27. Largo 02:02
28. Allegro 02:16

Concerto In C Minor, Opus 4 No. 10 09:23
29. Spirituoso 03:07
30. Adagio 03:27
31. Allegro 02:48

Concerto In D Major, Opus 4 No. 11 08:04
32. Allegro 02:49
33. Largo 03:16
34. Allegro assai 01:58

Concerto In G Major, Opus 4 No. 12 09:24 
35. Spirituoso e non Presto 02:48
36. Largo 02:57
37. Allegro 03:38

Rachel Podger (violin)
Arte Dei Suonatori Baroque Orchestra

- - - - -


Gramophone Classical Music Guide

"By the standards of the average Vivaldi violin concerto, the La stravaganza set is quite extravagant stuff, full of fantasy and experiment – novel sounds, ingenious textures, exploratory melodic lines, original types of figuration, unorthodox forms. It's heady music, and listening to its 12 concertos at a sitting, isn't a mode of listening one would recommend.

Still less so in performances as high in voltage as the present ones. There's a current trend in Baroque performance to get away from the cool- ness and objectivity which for a long time were supposed (on the whole, mistakenly) to be a part of performing practice of the time, but possibly the pendulum has swung a little wildly the other way. Perhaps here it's intended to reflect Vivaldi's own notorious freedom of performance. But anyone who's admired earlier recordings with period instruments may find these a little extravagant and hard-hitting. And they aren't helped by the resonant acoustic of the church in Poland used for the recording, which produces a full and bright sound but a boomy bass and less clear a texture than might be ideal. That said, however, these performances by Rachel Podger are crackling with vitality and executed with consistent brilliance as well as a kind of relish in virtuosity that catches the showy spirit, the self-conscious extravagance, of this particular set of works. There are plenty of movements here where her sheer digital dexterity is astonishing – for instance, the finale of No 6, with its scurrying figures, the second movement of No 7 or the finale of No 2 with its repetitive figures and leaping arpeggios. But perhaps even more enjoyable isthe exquisitely fine detail of some of the slow movements. No 8 in D minor is perhapsthe wildest concerto of the lot, with its extraordinary lines in the first movement, the passionate, mysterious outer sections in the second and the powerful and original figuration inthe finale: that one has a performance to leave you breathless. Another thing Podger is specially good at is the shaping of those numerous passages of Vivaldian sequences, which can be drearily predictable, but aren't so here because she knows just how to control the rhythmic tension and time the climax and resolution with logic and force.

This set is certainly recommended as a fine example of a modern view of Baroque performance – and it sounds even better on SACD."

- - - - -

  • First Choice
  • Building a Library
    November 2017
    First Choice