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Podger's Latest Bach

Bach, Violin Concertos, R. Podger, Brecon Baroque

(to be released on October 12, 2010)
CCS SA 30910 | 51'18"

Online scores:
J. S. Bach, Violin concertos
Channel Classics is celebrating its 20th anniversary with this new Bach recording by Rachel Podger, set to be released next month (not available on Amazon). The performance of the four violin concertos here is quite elegant, pairing Podger with the select ensemble that has often come together at the Brecon Baroque festival Podger directs in Wales. The small size of the performing forces -- two violins, viola, cello, violone, harpsichord, plus Podger on the solo -- conforms to current thinking about many Baroque concertos, including those of Bach and Vivaldi, and can be very satisfying in terms of the flexibility and clarity of sound. The playing is sensitive but dynamic, the pulse percolating and varied in weight, and Podger is generally up to her extraordinary best, with only some of the fast movements (the final movement of BWV 1042, for example) perturbed by some imprecision in difficult passage work, not quite up to the fleet tempi sometimes settled on by the group. The virtuosity of a player like Anne-Sophie Mutter may be greater in these pieces, but Podger captures more of the dance-like character of the music.

So this may not be a necessary purchase for anyone, but certainly anyone who already owns and loves Rachel Podger's Bach recordings -- like her solo Bach and her sonatas for violin and harpsichord with Trevor Pinnock -- will want to add this to the set. While you are doing that, you should probably also add the Academy of Ancient Music recording of Bach violin concertos, with Podger playing second fiddle to Andrew Manze, which would be a worthy companion (especially at that budget price) even if there is an overlap of two concertos. Podger will be making a rare appearance in Washington next month, leading the English Concert in their upcoming performance on the outstanding free concert series at the Library of Congress. The program does not feature any of the music from this new CD, but Podger will play the solos in a Vivaldi concerto and a few other pieces. The concert is also noteworthy because it will feature British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, singing some Dowland lute songs and a Handel cantata.


herman said...

PS I took the liberty of checking Mutter's version and she plays the rondo finale at a snail's tempo compared to Podger &c, so if anything ASM is much less virtuoso, apart from the obvious glaring stylistic discrepancies.


Charles T. Downey said...

Rondo finale? You mean the third movement of BWV 1042?

In any case, I would still prefer Podger in Bach over Mutter, for all of her bravura. It's just that there is some sloppiness in a few places that Mutter would probably not tolerate in one of her recordings.

herman said...

Perhaps the 1995 recording by Viktoria Mullova and an equally small band would be a more competitive comparison than Anne-Sophie Mutter playing Bach à la Beethoven, with dozens of the BPO accompanying.


MWnyc said...

Now we just need more Bach - lots more Bach - from Rachel's brother Julian.

Charles, have you (or readers, have you) heard the recording of Bach motets by Julian's group Trinity Baroque on the Raum Klang label?

Anna Picard wrote that it's the best version in more than 20 years, and I agree.