This album could be seen as a companion to Rachel Podger’s memorable account of Bach’s solo violin music (7/99, 12/99), providing a context and exploring some of the different ways Baroque composers approached writing for unaccompanied violin. Bach himself makes an appearance with the Flute Partita, transposed down from A to G minor, and, in this performance, sounding entirely comfortable as violin music. Of the other composers, Pisendel, leader of the Dresden orchestra, stands closest to Bach in the technical complexity of his writing. Podger’s beautiful playing of the first movement’s written-out decorations and her vital approach throughout the sonata mix virtuosity with an element of grandeur. The impression is powerful, thanks to her customary polished delivery combined with a bold, temperamental style.
In their different ways, Matteis and Tartini demonstrate an alternative way of writing for solo violin (apart from Matteis’s fugal Fantasia) – concentrating on a single melodic line, with harmony more lightly touched in. Both composers rely on ornamentation to enhance the expressive effect and Podger’s performance is outstanding, its precision and imagination creating a winning impression of spontaneity. Matteis’s ‘Passaggio rotto’ really sounds as though the music is being improvised.
Podger gives an outstanding performance, too, of the Biber Passacaglia, projecting the dynamic of the whole piece most persuasively and characterising vividly each stage of Biber’s inventive elaboration of the simple ground bass. We’re left in no doubt that this is one of the peaks of Baroque violin music.