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Bach: Violin Concertos / Podger

Audio Samples

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Violin in D minor, BWV 1052
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Violin no 2 in E major, BWV 1042
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Oboe in G minor, BWV 1056
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Oboe d'Amore in A major, BWV 1055

Album Summary

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Violin in D minor, BWV 1052
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Violin no 2 in E major, BWV 1042
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Oboe in G minor, BWV 1056
>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Oboe d'Amore in A major, BWV 1055
Performer Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Brecon Baroque was founded in 2007 by violinist Rachel Podger as resident ensemble at her annual Brecon Baroque Festival. The group's 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. For their debut recording, Brecon Baroque accompanies Podger in a selection of concertos by JS Bach. Future recording plans include Bach's Art of Fugue and Telemann's Tafelmusik.

"It sometimes seems that many Baroque violinists never would have had careers as "normal" violinists--but this is certainly not the case with Rachel Podger. Although some of her work in music later than the Baroque period is less than convincing in its approach, there's no question that she's a top-notch musician, and she's never made a finer (or smarter) recording than this. It's a pleasure from first note to last.

First of all, it's great seeing the two canonic Bach violin concertos not coupled with the usual "double" violin concerto (with the soloist playing both parts, of course). Instead, Podger offers transcriptions of two keyboard concertos, neither of which is usually thought to have been originally written for the violin. This makes less of a difference than you might think. The low tessitura of BWV 1055 may not offer Podger much of a technical challenge, but the sonorities recall the two strings-only Brandenburgs, and there are moments, such as her entry at the start of the finale, that are simply magical.

"Both this work and BWV 1056 were likely composed for oboe (or oboe d'amore), but again, the delicious pizzicato Largo of the G minor concerto sounds wonderfully fresh and charming with a violin as soloist, and I don't miss the honking and clicking of the usual Baroque oboe one bit. Which brings us to the next issue: Podger plays all of this music immaculately, with characterful ornamentation and (thank God) enough vibrato to achieve a distinctive cantabile tone, especially in the slow movements. Her moderate tempos in the allegros (the term means "lively"--not "like a bat out of hell", as some authenticists apparently think) allow her to phrase the melodies with confidence, interact with and play off of the orchestra, and prevent Bach's chugging rhythms from turning mechanical.

Brecon Baroque numbers just six players aside from Podger, which means essentially one player to a part. Yet the result never sounds thin or dry, thanks in large part to Channel Classics' stunningly natural, warm SACD engineering (marvelous in regular stereo or multichannel formats). Also, and this really is a big deal, continuo player Christopher Bucknall uses a gentle, pleasant-toned instrument that never swamps the strings. The result is a true "chamber concerto" experience, an exquisite dialog that the players clearly relish while preserving the essential contrast between solo and tutti on which the concerto form depends. Highest recommendation."-classicstoday.com

"Of the 20 or so of Bach's surviving concertos, only two are for solo violin. Both the A minor and E major concertos (BWV 1041 and 1042) have long been cherished mainstays of the violin repertoire. Rachel Podger describes them as "old friends" - which is not to say that there is anything remotely routine about her new recording of the concertos with her six-member Brecon Baroque ensemble. 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.

Podger has one of the sweetest tones of any period-instrument violinist - heard at its most beautiful in the singing Andante of BWV 1041, wonderfully sustained but never cloying. The finale has an infectiously spritely bounce and exhilarating dramatic tension; despite the energetic pace, it manages to stay firmly on the rails thanks to the players' formidable technique and musicianship.

The opening Allegro of the E major concerto is Bach at his most sunny and carefree. Podger and company exude joy, although they are occasionally a touch frantic: uplifting though their performance is, they never quite relax into the mellow composure this music needs. More effective is the soulful Adagio, contrasting dark intensity with sublime moments of golden light emerging from brooding clouds, and an ebullient finale.

It's likely that some of the arrangements for solo harpsichord and strings Bach made later in his career started life as violin concertos, so Podger augments this release with persuasive accounts of speculative adaptations for violin of a couple of harpsichord concertos. The measured tempo for the first movement of BWV 1056 in G minor has appropriate gravitas without losing buoyancy; the central Largo, with its delicately flowing melody and pizzicato "droplet" accompaniment, is utterly beguiling. The A major BWV 1055 has plenty of panache too, although the low-lying solo line makes it less convincing as a violin concerto (it was probably written for oboe d'amore). This is a small quibble, however: no one will go wrong with this invigorating album."-BBC Music

"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

"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 ****

"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 *****

"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 *****

"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." -bbc.co.uk

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: St John the Evangelist Church, Upper Norwood, London (05/2010).



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Works Details

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Violin in D minor, BWV 1052
  • Performer: Rachel Podger (Violin)
  • Conductor: Rachel Podger
  • Ensemble: Brecon Baroque
  • Running Time: 12 min. 27 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1730

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Violin no 2 in E major, BWV 1042
  • Performer: Rachel Podger (Violin)
  • Conductor: Rachel Podger
  • Ensemble: Brecon Baroque
  • Running Time: 15 min. 11 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: by 1730

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Oboe in G minor, BWV 1056
  • Performer: Rachel Podger (Violin)
  • Conductor: Rachel Podger
  • Ensemble: Brecon Baroque
  • Running Time: 9 min. 38 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: 1926

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Concerto for Oboe d'Amore in A major, BWV 1055
  • Performer: Rachel Podger (Violin)
  • Conductor: Rachel Podger
  • Ensemble: Brecon Baroque
  • Running Time: 13 min. 38 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: 1969