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Guardian Angel
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita for flute in A minor BWV1013 (transc. Podger in G minor) [15:40]
Nicola MATTEIS (died after 1713)
Three movements from Other Ayres,Preludes,Allmands,Sarabands etc.with full stops for the Violin:The Second Part [7:06]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Sonata in A minor B:a3 [21:00]
Sonata in B minor, No.13, B:h1 [10:11]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)
Sonata per violino solo senza basso [14:41]
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von BIBER (1644-1704)
Passacaglia in G minor for solo violin, senza scordatura (engraved The Guardian Angel): from The Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas [8:33]
Rachel Podger (baroque violin)
rec. Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, Netherlands, May 2013
Multichannel/Stereo. Reviewed in surround.
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSA35513 [78:30]

The title of Rachel Podger's latest recording derives from the last eight minutes, an extract from Biber's magnum opus The Rosary Sonatas: a passacaglia the manuscript of which is engraved with a child and an angel and thus assumed to be linked to the Feast of the Guardian Angel. Had the title gone to the majority shareholder it would have been called "Solo violin music by Tartini and other composers", which has no ring to it at all. The cover picture of Rachel Podger and the words 'Guardian Angel' carry quite another message and might have influenced my judgement that this is a remarkably beautiful recital. I doubt the solo violin has ever been more exquisitely recorded in surround. The instrument just floats before the listener within a lovely acoustic. The playing and the music itself is all gorgeous whether by Bach, Tartini or others less well-known.
 
The programme sets out to demonstrate that Bach's six great works for solo violin were just the tip of the iceberg where music for violin senza basso was concerned and that composers all over Europe experimented with the format producing a large number of marvellous pieces, many no less masterly than Bach's. Even the deeply obscure Nicola Matteis justifies the contemporary description that "never mortal man Exceeded (him) on that instrument."
 
One would hope that the Biber extract is a sign that Rachel Podger will record a complete set of his wonderful Rosary Sonatas in high resolution surround, possibly in this church; and what a pity that her set of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin was issued only on stereo CD.
 
Apart from the detailed and very necessary liner notes by Timothy Jones, we have an introduction by Ms Podger herself where she points out that these are all favourites of hers and then adds a little about each piece from a personal, performer’s viewpoint. Her words make interesting reading without in any way duplicating the contents of the main essay: overall an object lesson in CD documentation.
 
Definitely an issue to be purchased immediately as a present to oneself with an extra copy for your closest musical friend.  

Dave Billinge