Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, Vol. 2: BWV 1003, 1005-6

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, Vol. 2: BWV 1003, 1005-6
PERFORMER: Rachel Podger (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 14498
Having much enjoyed the first volume of Rachel Podger’s complete recording of Bach’s solo Partitas and Sonatas, I had high hopes of this second instalment. They were not disappointed. Here, particularly in the E major Partita and the C major Sonata, Podger’s effervescent musical personality is given full rein. The Partita is subtly yet distinctly infused with the courtly refinement of French Baroque music, and Podger’s spry, elegant playing and sweet sound (perhaps a touch limited in its tonal palette) are perfectly suited to its delicate style. The opening Adagio of the C major Sonata, by contrast, has a ghostly stillness, which Podger effectively offsets with a light-filled Fugue and a vivacious Allegro.

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No less successful is Podger’s reading of the more introspective A minor Sonata. Her technical control of the Fugue and the concluding Allegro – the two most technically demanding movements – is quietly impressive: here is an artist who is an undemonstrative mistress of her instrument. More affecting in this work, however, are the two slow movements. The opening Grave has a disarming wistfulness – a far cry from the dark fervour some players draw out of it; and the Andante is played with a stark simplicity that lays bare the haunting essence of the piece.

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Arthur Grumiaux’s recordings from the Sixties remain a classic benchmark, but these youthful interpretations of such profound music have a bitter-sweet edge. In short, Podger’s infectious charm and unaffected musicianship are hard to resist. Kate Bolton