Rachel Podger

Guardian Angel

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Given that the aim of this recording, announced in the booklet notes, is to "[demonstrate] how composers in Germany, Italy, Austria, and England responded to the challenges of writing for the violin senza basso, it's a bit odd to begin the proceedings with a work that's not for violin at all. However, the transcription for solo violin of Bach's underplayed Partita for flute in A minor, BWV 1013, by violinist Rachel Podger herself, is quite idiomatic to the violin, and Podger's performance is lively and attractive. From Bach, Podger looks outward to other solo violin works rather than back to the tradition immediately preceding Bach's unaccompanied sonatas and partitas. The works don't have anything directly to do with one another, but they are united in part by being Podger's favorites, and there are some fascinating offbeat pieces that do indeed seem to have counterparts in Bach's magisterial compendia. Consider the very nice pair of solo sonatas by Giuseppe Tartini. In the Giga movement of the first one, the violin takes its solo and is answered by itself in the role not only of harmonic accompaniment but of orchestral figure. The pieces by Nicola Matteis, who inaugurated the entire migration of Italian musicians to Britain, have a fantastic spirit, while the sonata by Pisendel, which may have preceded or followed Bach's pieces, is at least similar to them in language, although less deep. A selection from Biber's Rosary Sonatas works well as a finale. One minor flaw is that notes describe a sonata by Antonio Montanari that is not actually included; a more serious problem is overresonant church sound inconsistent with the chamber purposes of the music.

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