Rachel Podger

Violin

Rachel Podger

Rachel Podger is a wonder… she engages with this music as if she were Bach's playmate’(Albuquerque Journal). She was educated in Germany and in England at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she studied with David Takeno and Michaela Comberti. During her studies Rachel cofounded The Palladian Ensemble and Florilegium, two highly acclaimed baroque chamber groups which enjoyed exploring music of seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in concert and on record. From 1997 to 2002 she was leader of The English Concert with whom she toured throughout the world, often as concerto soloist. In 2004 Rachel began a guest directorship of The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, opening with a highly successful tour in the USA with Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Rachel also works as a guest director with Arte dei Suonatori (Poland), Musica Angelica (USA) and Santa Fe Pro Musica (USA), and as soloist with The Academy of Ancient Music. As a recitalist Rachel enjoys a busy career; she has given solo concerts in North America, Europe, Japan and Korea. Future engagements include concerts in France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, England, Scotland and Japan, several of them with Gary Cooper on keyboard. Rachel's first solo recordings (for Channel Classics), of J.S.Bach's Sonatas and Partitas, were released in 1999 to great critical acclaim. These discs were followed, in 2001, by Bach's Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord with Trevor Pinnock. Both recordings were awarded first place by the BBC's 'Building a Library' programme. Rachel's recording of Telemann's Twelve Fantasies for Solo Violin won the prestigious 'Diapason d'Or' and was listed in the BBC Music Magazine's 'top 20' classical CDs of 2002. Rachel's 2003 recording of Vivaldi's 12 violin concertos 'La Stravaganza' also received the 'Diapason d'Or' and was awarded the 2003 Gramophone award for Best Baroque Instrumental recording as well as being runner-up for the overall Record of the Year. With harpsichordist and fortepianist Gary Cooper she will record the complete Mozart Sonatas for Violin and Keyboard. The first CD of this series, issued in 2005, was 'Editor's Choice' of Gramophone and received another 'Diapason d'Or'. Rachel is Professor of Baroque Violin at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. She also teaches at the International Sommer Akademie in Innsbruck, Austria.

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Bach, J S: The Art of Fugue, BWV1080

Bach, J S: The Art of Fugue, BWV1080


Questions about the implied instrumentation are never going to be answered definitively. Certainly, virtually all the cycle is set out in such a way that it can be played on the keyboard, but the open score format of the original invites interpretation from any potential instrumental combination (or, indeed, even just a soundless reading by the highly trained musician). This question immediately leads on to another how are we expected to listen to this music? Are we meant to hear a sequence of virtual events or is it to be one event in a single span of time? Is it perhaps the filling out of contrapuntal and motivic possibilities that are all potentially simultaneous and which only have to be strung out in time to render them humanly perceivable? Much of this suggest that the work implies a sort of cyclic time, experienced from the point of view of eternity - in other words, the sort of time that we might imagine God experiences, superior to the messy narrative of human linear time. Yet, there are always human, worldly elements, such as the allusions to French style in Contrapunctus 6, the rhetorical pauses in the very first Contrapunctus, or the playful flow of the mirror fugues or some of the canons. This residue of human habitation is perhaps what distinguishes Bachs fugal works from the fugal (or ricercar) tradition of previous composers and in which later composers heard a voice speaking directly to them, a voice that shared at least some aspects of the modern world, even if it was entirely suffused with the sense of an overwhelming and all-embracing godly order.

“with playing of this sophistication, the restricted sound palette works wonderfully, supporting a calm, ruminative exploration of the many fugal devices. Rachel Podger’s group manages drama too in the French-style fugue, driven by the bite of the bow on the strings. The end is achingly incomplete, as is Bach’s text.” The Observer, 25th September 2016 ****

“the counterpoint stays clear, you can really follow the lines, and...the character of the individual players becomes an integral part of the way you hear Bach’s music. It never feels dull, academic of dry, and Podger and friends lively musical personalities bring a playfulness and curiosity to the performances that are very welcome.” Record Review, 28th October 2016

“This is not an interpretation that wants to grab you by the lapels…but rather one which by its natural ebb and flow aims to draw you stealthily into the music and have you breathe with it, so that you don’t notice the fugal climaxes coming until your own chest is swelling” Gramophone Magazine, October 2016

“They revel in Bach’s life-enhancing contrapuntal interplay and their relaxed, instinctive approach and ever-changing instrumentarium engender welcome contrasts within his ingenious conception. Particular highlights are the fugues scored for full ensemble, with Contrapuncti nos.7 and 9 the best of all.” The Strad, November 2016

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Bach: Solo & Double Violin Concertos

Bach: Solo & Double Violin Concertos


Bach, J S:

Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV1043

Concerto for Two Keyboards in C minor, BWV1060

Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV1041

Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major, BWV1042


One of the best-selling discs ever made by harmonia mundi.

“full of conversational spark and wry energy … This is showcase Bach playing.” MusicWeb International, September 2016

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Biber: The Rosary Sonatas

Biber: The Rosary Sonatas


Rachel Podger (violin), Marcin Świątkiewicz (harpsichord/organ), Jonathan Manson (cello/viola da gamba), David Miller (theorbo/archlute)

The Rosary (Mystery) Sonatas, even today, are considered the most extensive example of scordatura. From the Italian discordare meaning ‘out of tune’, scordatura is a technique whereby the strings are purposefully tuned differently from their usual arrangement. Here the usual G-D-A-E tuning, where the violin strings are consistently a perfect fifth apart, is only used for the opening Sonata and the closing Passacaglia. The other fourteen sonatas each have a different configuration of tuning. Compositionally this allowed Biber to obtain unusual chords, opening up a whole new spectrum of harmonic and textural possibilities. This fundamentally altered what a violin was and could be; its physicality as well as its voice was transformed.

“Not for nothing is Podger regarded today as queen of the baroque violin...Podger makes light of the virtuosic demands of this profound music, while never losing sight of it’s religious significance.” Sunday Times, 18th October 2015

“it stretches the instrument and the violinist to the limit. For this recording Rachel Podger uses the same instrument throughout, putting it through the pain, as part of the fascination for her was how the sound changed from piece to piece as the violin suffer alongside Christ…It’s searching, absorbing, quietly captivating playing and a moving journey through one of the most imaginative sets of violin sonatas ever composed.” CD Review, 17th October 2015

“They are fantastically complex works, with different violin tunings and multiple stoppings, so that Rachel Podger’s accomplished new recording sounds like a battery of many violins. Fine continuo adds to the variety of sound” The Observer, 18th October 2015

“She can play with grace and beauty – at the opening of ‘The Carrying of the Cross’, for instance...There are also many subtleties of articulation and timing, almost as if there are words and pauses lying behind the notes.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2015

Presto Discs of 2015

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Winner - Baroque Instrumental

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Perla Barocca

Perla Barocca

Early Italian Masterpieces


Bertali:

Chaconne

Castello, D:

Sonata seconda

Cima:

Sonata a due, Milano 1610

Fontana, G B:

Sonata seconda

Frescobaldi:

Toccata Prima

Toccata per Spinettina e Violino

Gabrieli, A:

Ricercar del primo tono (III/1)

Leonarda:

Sonata duodecima

Marini, B:

Sonata quarta per sonar con due corde

Mealli:

Sonata Sesta (Op. 4, 1690) La Vinciolina

Uccellini:

Sonata over Toccata Quinta a violino solo 'detta la Laura Rilucente'


Rachel Podger (violin), Marcin Świątkiewicz (harpsichord & organ) & Daniele Caminiti (theorbo)

Fresh from winning the Instrumental category in the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2014 for “Guardian Angel” (CCSSA35513) Rachel Podger is back with this beautiful collection of masterpieces of the early Italian Baroque.

By the mid-seventeenth century, musical composition had reached a point where invention had converged with technical mastery. Composers embraced a bass line lively with linearity, often entering into dialogue with the upper voices. Exploratory harmonic schemes were encompassed within larger unified tonalities. Through rhetorical structures, such as motive, imitation and sequence, composers instilled logic into their musical arguments.

These characteristics, though rooted in vocal practice, were being cultivated for the first time in musical history for instrumentalists. In other words, the Baroque was born.

The featured composers showcase sublime examples of the early Italian Baroque. Some composers dominate the repertory; others have left behind only a handful of works. Here, they come together to convey the diverse musical landscape at such an excitingly rich and creative era.

“It would be hard to imagine a more enticing introduction to the delights of 17th-century Italian violin music...Podger and her accompanists enjoy bringing out these pieces' sense of discovery, of excitement and intense feeling, yet without doing violence to the substance of the music.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2014

“there's the sense of music in possession of a free spirit and keen to test boundaries both expressive and virtuosic...Predictably there's an unfailing eloquence to everything Podger does, whether scampering over the strings with irrepressible insouciance, tracing the airborne curve of a rhetorical flourish, or tucking in a discreet yet telling embellishment.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2014 *****

Presto Discs of 2014

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GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2014

BBC Music Magazine

Chamber Choice - December 2014

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Guardian Angel: Rachel Podger

Guardian Angel: Rachel Podger

Music by Bach, Matteis, Tartini, Pisendel, Biber


Bach, J S:

Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV1013

Biber:

Passacaglia for violin solo in G minor (from Mystery Sonatas)

Matteis the Younger:

Passagio rotto

Fantasia

Movimento incognito

Pisendel:

Sonata per violino solo

Sonata for Violin Solo in A minor

Tartini:

Violin Sonata in A minor, B: a3

Sonata No.13 in B minor - Brainard h1


Rachel Podger (violin)

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.

Rachel Podger is one of the most creative talents to emerge in the field of period performance. Over the last two decades she has established herself as a leading interpreter of the music of the Baroque and Classical periods. After beginnings with The Palladian Ensemble and Florilegium, she was leader of The English Concert from 1997 to 2002 and in 2004 began a guest directorship with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with whom she appeared in a televised BBC Prom in 2007. As a guest director and soloist she has collaborated with numerous orchestras including Arte dei Suonatori (Poland), Musica Angelica and Santa Fe Pro Musica (USA), The Academy of Ancient Music, The European Union Baroque Orchestra, Holland Baroque Society and the Handel and Haydn Society (USA).

Rachel directs her own ensemble, Brecon Baroque and is Artistic Director of her own festival: the Brecon Baroque Festival. Rachel is an honorary member of both the Royal Academy of Music (where she holds the Michaela Comberti Chair for Baroque Violin) and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (where she holds the Jane Hodge Foundation International Chair in Baroque Violin) and teaches at institutions throughout the world.

“Characteristically unforced and natural, the playing manages to sound endlessly considered yet spontaneous. There's a sureness to the placing of every note, whether poised or bristling with bite and bravado. And Podger speaks the Italian of Tartini with a native fluency...All in all, utterly 'stupendious'.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2013 *****

“this is a remarkably beautiful recital. I doubt the solo violin has ever been more exquisitely recorded in surround. The instrument just floats before the listener within a lovely acoustic. The playing and the music itself is all gorgeous...Definitely an issue to be purchased immediately as a present to oneself with an extra copy for your closest musical friend.” MusicWeb International, 8th January 2014

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2013

BBC Music Magazine Awards 2014

Instrumental Award Winner

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JS Bach: Double & Triple Concertos

JS Bach: Double & Triple Concertos


Bach, J S:

Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV1043

Bojan Čičić (violin II)

Concerto for Flute, Violin & Harpsichord in A minor, BWV1044

Katy Bircher (flute)

Concerto for Oboe, Violin and Strings BWV1060R

Alexandra Bellamy (oboe)

Concerto for 3 violins, strings & continuo in D major (reconstruction), BWV 1064R

Johannes Pramsohler, Anna Nowak-Pokrzywinska (violins II & III)


Rachel Podger (violin/director)

Brecon Baroque

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 Čičić and Johannes Pramsohler.

Brecon Baroque specialises in the music of J.S. Bach and his contemporaries, mostly as a one-to-apart ensemble based on the Cafe Zimmerman ensemble which Bach himself directed. They also appear as a small baroque orchestra for Vivaldi, Telemann, Purcell and Handel. More than any other composer of his period, J. S. Bach realised the possibilities of the concerto avec plusieurs instruments.

Drawing on the precedents of Vivaldi and others, Bach’s probing musical intellect led him down novel paths of invention where the collaborative and antagonistic features of the genre reached unprecedented levels of complexity. (...) The state of the surviving musical sources for Bach’s concertos suggests that he produced them for a variety of contexts, whether the courtly milieu of Köthen, the urban setting of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig, or even for his own domestic entertainment. This was music that he was willing to rework for different occasions, and each of the concertos on this disc existed in more than one version. (from liner notes by Tim Jones)

“the music emerges with integrated, unaffected and airy naturalness...And in BWV1064R, the three-violin version here often outshines the surviving three-harpsichord version. Podger's Bach has always been something special: this is indispensable.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2013 *****

“Bach's contrapuntal lines emerge with unusual clarity, animating each detail of the texture. There's little feeling of an imposed interpretation...The outer movements of the well-known Double Concerto are vivacious and poised, and its central Largo combines tranquillity with an unimpeded momentum.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2013

“This is the most effervescent, zingy Bach Double Concerto I’ve heard. Close your eyes, don a pair of headphones, and listen to Rachel Podger and Bojan Čičić sparring with effortless, conversational fluency...A life-enhancing disc, infused with terpsichorean joie de vivre.” The Arts Desk, 29th June 2013

Building a Library

Also Recommended - April 2016

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Rachel Podger at the Three Choirs Festival

Rachel Podger at the Three Choirs Festival


Bach, J S:

Partita for solo violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV1004: Sarabande

Giga from Violin Partita No. 2

Partita for solo violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV1004: Chaconne

Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV1006: Preludio

Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV1006: Loure

Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E, BWV1006: Gavotte

Cello Suite No. 3 in C major BWV1009: Bourrees I & II

Cello Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV1009: Gigue

Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV1011: Prélude


Rachel Podger (violin/tutor); students: Colin Scobie, Violeta Barrena (violin); George Clifford (baroque violin); Hetti Price, Vladimir Waltham (baroque cello)

All regions; running time 2 hours and 39 minutes

“Podger is utterly undogmatic, preferring instead to see all instruments as tools at the service of any musician's primary focus: the music itself...The freedom in her own playing, it soon transpires, is built on an understanding of Bach's harmonic thinking...the spontaneity that informs Podger's every phrase ultimately derives from discipline” BBC Music Magazine, February 2013 ***

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Vivaldi: La cetra - 12 concerti, Op. 9

Vivaldi: La cetra - 12 concerti, Op. 9


Rachel Podger (violin)

Holland Baroque Society

After recording Vivaldi's set of Violin Concertos 'La Stravaganza', Opus 4, in 2003, Rachel Podger has been immersed in music by Mozart and Bach on disc. But it has now felt right to come back to the Venetian Maestro, whose sense of drama she adores: “This time I chose his opus 9, the set of 12 Violin concertos entitled 'La Cetra'. There are plenty of jewels in this set, just as in 'La Stravaganza', with even higher technical demands made on the soloist including many, often exotic experimental effects.”

"What I like most of all is her evident relish of the virtuoso demands that the music makes: she rises splendidly to them, making the most of Vivaldi’s extravagant writing” Gramophone: Awards 2003 (Vivaldi, 'La Stravaganza')

“Podger has one of the sweetest tones of any period-instrument violinist.” BBC Music Magazine (Bach Violin Concertos)

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“Personality and charisma can easily be found in Rachel Podger’s account of Vivaldi’s violin concertos...the elegant energy in her phrasing is adorable...contrasts are vivid, the drama is considerable, and the orchestra’s sonic tapestries bring their own special joy.” The Times, 22nd June 2012 ****

“The variety of Op 9 astounds the ear, especially in these feisty readings, which emphasise the folksy roots of the dance movements and lend them an almost funky modernity. The highlight here is the B flat major double concerto — with Judith Steenbrink as second soloist” Sunday Times, 24th June 2012

“The music world is inestimably the better for Rachel Podger...Everything she touches comes to life in a way that is not only satisfying musically but also representative of the human spirit at its most vital...Podger reveals unexpected depth and variety of expression in the music...Podger wears her virtuosity lightly, and the relationship with the Holland Baroque Society players is clearly one of mutual inspiration.” Financial Times, 14th July 2012 *****

“Unlike some of her continental rivals Podger's light bowing and well-judged tempos effortlessly discover the tenderly poetic content of Vivaldi's music, and here that dimension is abundant...Podger's playing radiates expressive warmth and we can only delight in the spontaneous rapport that she feels with the mature idiom of these wonderful concertos.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2012 ****

“This is really attractive music to listen to, and with performances as full of vitality as these there is something immensely satisfying for the listener. Everything is carefully and beautifully phrased, and you sense a real chemistry between Podger and Holland Baroque Society...they bring a real energy and drive to the performances, while clearly listening and responding appropriately to every subtle nuance which Podger inflects in this music.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 25th June 2012

Presto Disc of the Week

25th June 2012

GGramophone Awards 2013

Finalist - Baroque Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2012

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JS Bach: Violin Concertos

JS Bach: Violin Concertos


Bach, J S:

Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV1041

Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major, BWV1042

Violin Concerto in G minor, BWV1056

Violin Concerto in A major, BWV1055


Rachel Podger (violin/director)

Brecon Baroque

The dynamic ensemble Brecon Baroque was founded in 2007 by violinist Rachel Podger as resident ensemble at her annual Brecon Baroque Festival. The international line-up consists of some of some of the leading lights in the period-instrument world, such as cellist Alison McGillivray, flautist Katie Bircher, oboist Alexandra Bellamy and violist Jane Rogers, as well as some of Rachel's “star” former students who now occupy leading positions in many of Europe's finest ensembles.

Brecon Baroque specializes in the music of J.S.Bach and his contemporaries, often as a one-to-a-part ensemble but also as a small Baroque orchestra. Over the last two years the ensemble has performed several of Bach's Cantatas for solo soprano with Elin Manahan Thomas and will do so again in 2011. Future recording plans include Bach's Art of Fugue and Telemann's great collection Tafelmusik.

'The opportunity to spend three intensive days recording four Bach concertos is an uplifting experience. Each piece encompasses a unique expressive world where discovering the real essence of every movement becomes a kind of obsession! The concertos in A minor and E major are old friends. I’ve grown up with them and I played them a lot when young. The other two, in G minor and A major, were very familiar (as harpsichord concertos or in various transcriptions) – relations I knew reasonably well but not such close friends. It has been a delight to explore these pieces and renew acquaintance, first hand.’ Rachel Podger

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“Sunshine floods through this ensemble recording...The forces are small, just one player per part, yet Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque think big...The E-major Concerto has spring, poise and wit, while the G-minor contrasts the langour of the Largo with a fizzing Presto.” The Independent on Sunday, 3rd October 2010

“In these lively, one-instrument-to-a-part performances, they [1056 and 1055] work well in this adaptation, and Podger’s lean, sinewy sound rises out of the ensemble shiningly.” Sunday Times, 17th October 2010 ****

“The music flows with a natural ease. She stays light and nimble, very much embedded in the ensemble. The delicacy of her dynamic shifts and decorative details is remarkable...But this above all is a community endeavour. Podger’s six supporting musicians play alongside with exquisite skill and freshness...and provide a thrilling kaleidoscope of colours.” The Times, 22nd October 2010 *****

“Exceptionally intimate and flexible performances from Rachel Podger” Financial Times, 13th November 2010

“Podger delivers an infectious, dancing lead which rubs off on the small, top-quality band. The A minor jig has a breathless intensity as the players unanimously bend to the delirious rhythm...Podger's period-instrument rendering of these untiringly repeatable masterworks is among the best on disc, authentic or otherwise.” Classic FM Magazine, December 2010 *****

“This crack squad of first-rate period-instrument musicians gives lithe, polished and devoted performances that make a convincing case for a one-to-a-part "orchestra". Indeed, so full-bodied is the sound that you could be forgiven for not noticing the paucity of numbers – except the precision and freedom for manoeuvre is far greater than any chamber orchestra could achieve.” Graham Rogers, bbc.co.uk, 30th November 2010

“The first and most immediately striking thing about this new recording is that the orchestra is made up of single strings...the solo violin part is often written like just one of the orchestral parts and so Rachel's more chamber-like approach sounds fantastically appropriate and vividly exciting.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 11th October 2010

Presto Disc of the Week

11th October 2010

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Vivaldi: La stravaganza - 12 concerti, Op. 4

Vivaldi: La stravaganza - 12 concerti, Op. 4


Rachel Podger (violin)

Arte Dei Suonatori Baroque Orchestra

“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.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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