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.
A new recording from violinist Rachel Podger is always worth attention. And before you even get to appreciating the first-class performances - faithful realizations of Bach’s Art of Fugue skillfully arranged for strings - you notice the immediate, vibrant presence of the instruments. The sound is stunning, reminiscent of the early days of digital recording, when listeners used to marvel at how realistic the sound was. Channel Classics has been doing this forever; we just may have forgotten how special it is when it’s done right.
When back in 2003 Rachel Podger’s recording of Vivaldi’s 12 violin concertos Op.4 ‘La Stravaganza’ Vivaldi: La Stravaganza – Podger/Arte Dei Suonatori was released it was universally acclaimed & quickly went on to garner numerous awards from many sections of the music press including Gramophone, Stereophile & The Absolute Sound as well as winning a Diapason d’Or. It is also interesting to note that even on SA-CD.net more than 100 people have recommended that recording. In the intervening years Rachel Podger has widened her recorded repertoire to make further highly regarded recordings of works by Bach, Haydn & Mozart, but she has now made a triumphant return to Vivaldi with this wonderful set of the composer’s 12 Violin Concertos Op.9 known as ‘La Cetra’ .
Two rarely recorded Haydn violin concertos frame Rachel Podger’s performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat on this disc. Both concertos have only string accompaniment, here provided by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and a discreet harpsichord (the player’s name unaccountably omitted from the list of the orchestra personnel in the accompanying booklet). Rachel Podger has chosen to play both concertos on her own Pesarinius violin (1739) that she feels is most suited to the style of these works and few would disagree with her choice. Her agile and spirited playing in the outer movements is complemented by her pure cantilena in the slow movements. As is to be expected, both works are full of baroque idioms and, while neither presents Haydn at his most inventive, they make an enjoyable pairing.
The dynamic ensemble Brecon Baroque was founded in 2007 by violinist and director Rachel Podger as resident ensemble at her annual Brecon Baroque Festival.The international line-up consists of some of the leading lights in the period-instrument world,such as cellist Alison McGillivray,flautist Katy Bircher,oboist Alexandra Bellamy and violist Jane Rogers,as well as some of Rachel's former students who now occupy leading positions in many of Europe's finest ensembles:violinists Bojan Cicic and Johannes Pramsohler.
For those who already appreciate Rachel Podger's unique brand of magic I'll just say that this return to recorded Bach is lovely and all that one could hope for. All that one looks for is here, and there is more. For those who are not familiar with Rachel Podger, she is a unique voice among violinists. She has absorbed the principles of late Baroque performance practice and made them a part of herself, so that the articulation and inflection of that rhetorical approach to music flows from her as a natural idiom of expression.
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.
Vivaldi augmented his reputation as The Red Priest with L'Estro Armonico , Op. 3, a collection of twelve concertos for one, two and four violins. The title of the collection encapsulates the qualities that so entranced Vivaldi's contemporaries. L Estro Armonico , which might be translated as musical rapture , reflects the vitality and freshness of Vivaldi's invention: its rhythmic energy, melodic and harmonic intensity,textural sensuousness,performative brilliance and dramatic flair.
The music on this recording demonstrates how composers in Germany, Italy, Austria and England responded to the challenges of writing for violin senza basso. Music for violin senza basso had a distinguished history before Bach and was widely cultivated by his contemporaries. Violinistic virtuosity was extraordinarily experimental in the late seventeenth century, with novelties in the tuning of the strings (scordaura), bowing techniques, chordal playing and contrapuntal textures (with the development of sophisticated double-, triple- and quadruple-stopping techniques) and playing in high positions. This disc of solo violin music is a real mixture of some of Rachel’s favourite pieces.