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Fanfare Magazine: 37:2 (11-12/2013) 
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Channel Classics


Code-barres / Barcode: 0723385341130 (ID297)

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Reviewer: Robert Maxham

Rachel Podger’s performance with friends and students—one to a part—of Bach’s Double and Triple concertos begins with the familiar and passes through less frequently explored territory. The program begins with the Double Concerto in D Minor, a work to the first movement of which she and her former student Bojan Čičić lend a transparency and energy that lifts their performance above the standard, while the Brecon Ensemble bounces along crisply underneath. The second movement also proceeds at a flowing tempo that allows its ideas to unfold within the span of the listener’s memory. The final movement blows onto the stage in an irresistible gust, but the ensemble’s more rapid tempo, along with the clean recorded sound, allow a great deal of the movement’s contrapuntal detail to bubble, providing as much visceral delight as intellectual satisfaction.

The Concerto for Harpsichord, Flute, and Violin, in which Podger is joined on harpsichord by Marcin Świątkiewicz and on flute by Katy Bircher, comes, according to Timothy Jones’s notes, from the Prelude and Fugue, BWV 894 (the outer movements), and the Organ Sonata, BWV 527 (the central one). Though remaining well within the concerto grosso’s general ambit, the first movement sparkles with dialogues between violin and flute, with the harpsichord remaining constantly vigilant. Podger’s and Bircher’s bright collaboration enhances this effect, making the movement one of Bach’s most kaleidoscopic for multiple soloists. In the slow movement, the harpsichord adopts a less prominent role, almost to pointillistic effect in this performance. Podger, though never assuming the preeminent role in this movement, plays with great warmth on the G-string in passages assigned to it (Baroque composers generally avoided passages on the G-string because of its diameter, which made it balky). The finale seems sedate in its ritornello parts, but brilliantly virtuosic in its writing for harpsichord (Podger’s own notes refer to the work as a harpsichord concerto with flute and violin timbres interspersed).

The Concerto for Violin and Oboe, with Podger and oboist Alexandra Bellamy as soloists, sounds brisk and even spiky in its first movement—but hardly at the expense of its polyphonic integrity. In the second movement, as in the similar movement in the Double Violin Concerto, the flowing tempo again enlivens the musical communication and, in this case, especially, the vibrancy of the dialogue between soloists. The ensemble takes a quick tempo again in the Finale, which underlines the violin part’s virtuosity.

The Concerto for Three Violins in D Major, the least familiar work on the program, purports to be a reconstruction of the Concerto for Three Harpsichords in C Major, BWV 1064, and another of Podger’s students, Johannes Pramsohler, joins Čičić and Podger in this version, which hardly shies away from virtuosic passagework in the solo violin parts. Together, they spin what seem like seamless strands in the slow movement and return to the first movement’s robust virtuosity in the Finale. No mere musicological archive, Channel Classics’s collection should appeal broadly, to general audiences as well as to specialist collectors, and deserves a very strong recommendation for all aspects of the production—recorded sound (clear and full-bodied), program notes, performances, and—of course—repertoire.

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