The title of Rachel Podger’s new disc is taken from an engraving of an angel and child on the manuscript of the piece that closes it: Biber’s haunting G minor Passacaglia, a work whose implications would find their apotheosis in Bach’s great D minor Chaconne for solo violin some 40 years later. But there’s a sense that, when it comes to the unaccompanied violin repertoire of the Baroque, Podger is something of a ‘guardian angel’ herself.
Here she champions lesser-known figures such as Matteis – a violinist whose London performances were described by the diarist John Evelyn as ‘stupendious’ – while despatching Pisendel and Tartini with an almost angelic insouciance. Having already recorded peerless accounts of the Bach solo Sonatas and Partitas, Podger opens with her own transcription of the A minor Flute Partita, BWV 1013 – transposed into G minor, ensuring that the disc goes tonally full circle by ending with the Biber in the same key – and the result is so idiomatically persuasive it will give ammunition to those who have long suspected a violin ‘original’ lurking behind the Partita BWV 1013’s flutey exterior. 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 that, in the A minor Sonata’s first Allegro, is deliciously conversational, almost conspiratorial. All in all, utterly ‘stupendious’.