Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas
As a matter of tactics disregarding the printed order of the works, this second disc opens in the most effective way with a joyous performance of the ever-invigorating E major Preludio. At once we can recognize Podger's splendid rhythmic and tonal vitality (not merely Bach's marked terraced dynamics but pulsatingly alive gradations within phrases), her extremely subtle accentuations and harmonic awareness (note her change of colour at the move from E to C sharp major in bar 33), are all within total technical assurances. The Gavotte en Rondeau is buoyantly dance-like, and in the most natural way she elaborates its final statement (her stylish ornamentation throughout the Partita is utterly convincing). She takes the Giga at a restrained pace that allows of all kinds of tiny rhythmic nuances. Only a rather cut-up performance (for my taste) of the Loure stops this being one of the most enjoyable E major Partitas I can remember.
In the sonatas she shows other sterling qualities. She preserves the shape in the A minor Grave's ornate tangle of notes; she judges to a nicety the balance of the melodic line against the plodding accompanimental quavers of the Andante; she imbues the C major's Adagio with a hauntingly poetic musing atmosphere, and her lucid part-playing of its Fuga could scarcely be bettered. In the Fuga of the A minor Sonata, however, she unexpectedly allows herself considerable rhythmic freedom in order to point the structure. The final track is a stunning performance of the C major's closing Allegro assai which would bring any audience to its feet. This disc is a natural for my Critic's Choice of the year.'