The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: A perceptive exploration of lesser-known Baroque solo violin repertoire
Musicians: Rachel Podger (violin)
Composer: Bach, Biber, Matteis, Tartini, Pisendel

Rachel Podger here includes among her favourite works for unaccompanied violin her own transposed version of Bach’s Flute Partita BWV1013. She communicates Bach’s ‘polyphonic melody’ intelligently and gives expressive meaning to phrasing, particularly in the Allemande and Sarabande. Rubato is winningly employed, even if it occasionally inhibits forward momentum. Podger displays her expressive vocabulary further in selected ‘Ayrs’ by Matteis, imaginatively capturing the improvisatory nature of his ‘Passagio rotto’ and effectively varying bow strokes to characterise the ‘Fantasia’ – her reading of Pisendel’s Sonata is similarly individual and perceptive. Her accounts of two Tartini sonatas offer striking contrast. The A minor (B:a3) features some beautiful cantabile playing, imaginative extempore ornamentation and deftly characterised variations, many of which require adept fingering in the higher registers. The B minor (B:h1) finds her suitably free and contemplative in the opening Andante, energetic in the Allegro and expressive in the unusual Giga. Finally, her reading of Biber’s Passacaglia is poised and controlled, expansive at the outset but well shaped and intelligently scaled. The recording is spacious, resonant and detailed – Podger’s breathing is clearly audible – but her 1739 Pesarinius violin scarcely sounds like a period instrument. A sonata by Montanari described in the booklet notes has not been included.

Robin Stowell