2023 Recording of the Year & Instrumental Award from BBC Music Magazine
On her new recording Tutta Sola (All Alone) Rachel Podger interprets the music of twelve Baroque composers incredibly intimately. The title Tutta Sola means ‘all alone’. J.S. Bach wrote ‘sei solo’ on his title page, which can be interpreted as ‘I am alone’, or ‘all alone’. Baroque violinist Rachel Podger values the concentration that you need to have for a solo recital. She believes that there’s something incredibly intimate about it, nothing quite like it.
For this new album, Rachel Podger put together a program of selected solo violin pieces, preludes, dances and fugal movements from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of twelve different composers. As per her philosophy that just about everything ‘starts with Bach’, so does this album. It is the world premiere recording of J.S. Bach’s famous organ Toccata and Fugue in a specially commissioned arrangement by Chad Kelly for solo violin in A minor.
Rachel Podger says “When you’re recording a solo album, you’re in a space, with your instrument, the composer, microphones, and there’s no-one else there. It’s really special and hard to describe. It feels like an honor in a way, to fill that space with my violin. During the recording sessions of Tutta Sola it happened to me multiple times that my dear producer Jonathan Freeman-Attwood or recording engineer Jared Sacks of Channel Classics would suddenly say something over the speaker, and I would be slightly shocked – “Oh right! You are here too!” – from having been in such deep concentration. I felt so close to the composers. There’s nothing quite like it, and it’s a privilege.”
Rachel Podger – Violin
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 01:07:11
|Original Recording Format|
|Release Date||October 28, 2022|
Since making standard-setting recordings of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, Rachel Podger has returned intermittently to the solo violin repertoire to explore the works that came before Bach’s epoch-making set and that may have inspired and influenced it. In this respect, ‘Tutta sola’ might be seen not only as a companion to Podger’s Bach but also as a sequel to ‘Guardian Angel’, which also opened with a Bach transcription (the Flute Partita) and dropped in on the likes of Tartini and the younger Matteis.
The challenge for all these composers was to take a primarily soprano melody instrument and create works in which full(er) harmony is implied through techniques such as double-stopping, arpeggiation or exploiting the instrument’s range across the four strings to imply multiple lines. The great D minor Toccata attributed to Bach may conjure up in some listeners’ minds the archetype of the gothic organ played at full pelt but many have imagined a putative violin original, pensive rather than projecting; and come the fugue, the full panoply of effects is pressed into action to create a highly persuasive sort of ‘ghost’ polyphony.
Consistent beauty of tone isn’t a priority for Podger and her 1739 Pesarinius in this repertoire. In her hands the violin sings like a soprano, blares like a trumpet, spits, whispers and even wheedles like a crying child. She can be severe, for example in the angular Sarabande from the Klagenfurt Manuscript, celebratory in the fanfare-like Corelli transcription from John Walsh’s Select Preludes and Vollentarys for the Violin or the Allegro assai from the Tartini Piccola sonata, and plaintive in the same work’s central song based on a verse by Tasso. The sequence by the enigmatic Vilsmayr (a Salzburg colleague and supposed student of Biber, yet to score his own Grove biography) is more consciously melodic, with its alternating sequence of Arias and dance movements, the Matteis Fantasia more harmonically anguished, the Westhoff suite pleasingly extrovert. Notes by Mark Seow succinctly offer context for the music and portray the milieux in which these composers worked.
Throughout, Podger is a perfect guide, her intonation unfailing and her musicianship and violinistic personality illuminating this intriguing music at every moment.
Rachel Podger’s recordings of Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin have been widely regarded as among the very finest since they were released over twenty years ago, and she is firmly established as a leading interpreter of the Baroque period and beyond. In this new recording, she illuminates the historical context within which these canonical works were created, judiciously selecting pieces for solo violin by other Baroque composers that similarly stretched the expressive and technical limits of the instrument.
As explained in the accompanying notes, Johann Paul von Westhoff’s writing for solo violin, much of which pre-dates Bach’s sonatas and partitas by some two decades, was almost certainly a major influence on the latter. For example, there are clear similarities between von Westhoff’s first partita in A minor and the first movement of Bach’s second partita. However, that piece is not included here. Instead, Podger performs the suite for solo violin without bass in A major – one of several highlights on this disc. The substantial technical challenges, particularly in the allemande and courante are navigated with suppleness and apparent ease, and the opening prelude is beautifully handled (and to this listener’s ears, the second section of this movement bears some echoes of Bach’s monumental chaconne from partita no. 2).
Johann Joseph Vilsmayr’s artificiosus concentus pro camera, published in 1715 is a collection of six partitas, although in an unfortunate omission, the actual work performed here (no. 6) is not specified anywhere in the album information or booklet. Each of the partitas comprises a prelude followed by a sequence of dances, generally smaller in scale to Bach’s examples, but all highly engaging and enjoyable pieces. I would have liked to hear Rachel taking on the fifth partita in G minor too (for which the prelude has been interpreted as another possible inspiration for Bach’s chaccone) but this is a perfectly paced, expressive interpretation of an outstanding but rarely heard work.
Biographical details around Nicola Matteis Jr are extremely scant and further obscured by uncertainty around his father’s life and work (Matteis Sr has at various times been considered second only to Corelli in musicianship, and a primary influence in the development of a more Italianate style of playing in England but was largely forgotten until the mid to late 20th century). Here, Podger performs Matteis Jr’s fantasia in C minor, an intriguing and quite abstract work. This music has a mournful quality, perfectly paced and beguiling in its effect. Three short didactic pieces from the three volume Nogueira manuscript of around 1720 follow, which, to my ears are less stylistically or aesthetically interesting.
The Klagenfurt manuscript, from which three movements are selected, dates from around 1685, the year of Bach’s birth. The first of these, a prelude, is one of several highlights here. Podger plays with such imaginative insight, spontaneity and grace. These rare works by an unknown composer deserve much better recognition.
John Walsh’s 1705 collection of preludes featured short pieces by the most important and gifted violinists and composers of the time, including Corelli and Purcell, both represented here. Corelli’s influence, in particular, can be heard in the violin sonatas of Giuseppe Tartini whose piccola sonata rounds off this quite wonderful disc. Throughout, Podger demonstrates outstanding articulation and insight, drawing out the beauty in these neglected works.
A stunning achievement and surely a contender for Recording Of The Year.
Rachel Podger explores a selection from the rich solo violin repertoire that preceded the monumental works of Bach, constantly probing each composer’s intentions and forging telling, meaningful interpretations. She frames her choices with a familiar Bach attribution, the Toccata and Fugue BWV565, given a new, lighter guise in Chad Kelly’s idiomatic transcription, and Tartini’s Sonata Piccola in D major op.26 no.17, the central ‘Aria del Tasso’ of which she delivers with a winning variety of expression.
Podger meets head-on the advanced technical requirements of Westhoff’s Suite (1683) and makes perfect sense of its polyphonic textures and Bachian amalgam of styles, especially the flamboyant arpeggiations in the Prelude. Similarly, she dispatches the prelude of Matteis the Younger’s Fantasia in C minor with temporal suppleness and demonstrates a clear understanding of the voice-leading in the ensuing fugal section. She completes her program with a prelude, various dances and ‘arias’ from Vilsmayr’s Artificiosus Concentus pro Camera, preludes from a John Walsh compilation intended for technical improvement and some fantastical gems from the Nogueira and Klagenfurt manuscripts, all communicated with a beguiling mix of technical sophistication, variety of expression, rhetoric, spontaneity and intimacy.
A resonant church acoustic gives full bloom to the clear, sonorous tone of Podger’s 1739 Pesarini violin.
BBC Music Magazine
Whenever the question of the origins of Bach’s solo violin Sonatas and Partitas is raised, the names given above are often cited, yet few of us know what this music actually sounds like. While the supreme quality of Bach’s masterwork can hardly be in doubt, the complacent notion that everything that came before it was unquestionably of inferior quality has (with the exception of Biber’s unaccompanied violin music) never really been tested. Now we at last have the chance.
As a scene-setter, Rachel Podger opens with a new A minor transcription of the organ Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, by Chad Kelly, that sounds magnificent. Podger’s mesmerizing playing reveals the disingenuousness of much period-instrument criticism, which in the violin’s case almost invariably focuses on the perceived ‘thinner’ sound and ‘lack’ of (continuous) vibrato. Yet the most striking aspects of Podger’s playing throughout this recital (compared to most 20th-century ‘golden-agers’), is her enhanced range of tone and articulation, her vastly more flexible use of dynamics and phrasing and her temporal suppleness.
To discover where Bach found inspiration for the dance movements of his partitas, look no further than Johann Joseph Vilsmayr and Johann Paul von Westhoff, whose shaping of phrases and implied counterpoint, achieved via subtle registral changes, sounds incredibly similar to Bach’s designs. Bach’s tendency towards inspired extemporization in the Sonatas is clearly anticipated by Matteis Jr’s C minor Fantasia, while his exultant melodiousness in the Italian style owes much to Tartini’s solo sonatas. Podger plays every piece with an explorative sense of excited discovery, playfully pointing up the various correspondences with Bach’s matchless works.
Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.