Perla Barocca: Early Italian Masterpieces

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COMPOSERS: Castello,Fontana,Frescobaldi,Leonarda and Chima,Marini,Mealli,Uccellini
LABELS: Channel Classis
ALBUM TITLE: Perla Barocca: Early Italian Masterpieces
WORKS: Works by Fontana, Frescobaldi, Uccellini, Marini, Castello, Mealli, Leonarda and Chima
PERFORMER: Rachel Podger (violin), Marcin S´wia˛tkiewicz (harpsichord, organ), Daniele Caminiti (theorbo)


With her new album Perla Barocca Rachel Podger steps back into the heady world of the early Italian Baroque. She mixes solo sonatas where it’s all about the violin with sonatas a due that invite a little contrapuntal discourse from the continuo bass. In either case, however, there’s the sense of music in possession of a free spirit and keen to test boundaries both expressive and virtuosic.

Not all the names will be as well known as Frescobaldi or Andrea Gabrieli who provide solo keyboard context, but the likes of Uccellini, Castello or Marini are no longer confined to the footnotes where they languished for so long. And Podger also strikes a blow for 17th-century feminism with a sonata by the prolific Isabella Leonarda who spent most of her 84 years in the Ursuline convent of Sant’Orsola in Novara.


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. Her continuo team (ringing the changes between harpsichord organ and theorbo) are just as infectiously inventive, and they all save the best – or at any rate the catchiest – for last, egging each other on in the whirligig of pure joy that is the Chiacona by Antonio Bertali. Perla Barocca? A pearl of great price indeed! Paul Riley