A long time ago, back in the 1970s, period instrument performances mostly sounded sweet and low down. Part of the reason for this was the catgut strings and the lower tuning, and part of the reason was that players seemed to prefer a mellower and rounder tone. But time passed and period instrument performances became more and more strident until they became nearly painful to listen to by the late '80s. Violinist Rachel Podger has recaptured the mellow sounds of yesterday by producing a warm and almost human sound with her 1739 Persarinius instrument.
This is a welcome addition to my collection. These little gems sparkle and make me want to look at other Vivaldi pieces. It's time to go beyond the Four Seasons. These pieces show compositional variety, the playing is nuanced and exciting, and the SACD recording is superb.
In the disc's liner notes we're urged to judge Vivaldi's place "in the pantheon of great baroque composers" on the "stand-alone quality of his music" and not on errant or offhand claims of this or that musicologist. Well, owing to violinist Rachel Podger's stunning, fiercely energetic, ardently expressive, and technically assured performances and the ravishing orchestral support from the Polish period-instrument ensemble Arte Dei Suonatori, our task as listeners certainly is an easy and prodigiously enjoyable one. And that's not all the good news: this is truly one of those sonic "events" where the performers have an almost palpable presence, their sound is absolutely faithful and natural, and the balances are right on. Go ahead and turn this one up–you'll be immediately bathed in glorious, vibrant string sound, and be pleasantly surprised by the potential of Vivaldi's music to actually hold your undivided attention for an hour–maybe more.
Les Troyens is a tour de force that ranges from fiery military marches to intense choruses, passionate soliloquies and the lyrical love duets of Dido and Aeneas. For Hector Berlioz, librettist and composer, the opera became the work of decades and the passion of a lifetime, the culmination of his literary love affair with Virgil's Aeneid and with two tragic heroines, Cassandra and Dido. David McVicar's staging is on an enormous scale, assembling one of the largest casts ever seen at Covent Garden. The sweeping theme of the rise and fall of empires runs throughout Les Troyens, along with moving meditations on love and honour.