Weekend Listening: Rachel Podger

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I was doing some work tonight, finally transcribing an interview I conducted several years ago with a classical music record producer. And he repeatedly mentioned his work on Rachel Podger’s records as some of the best sessions he’s been a part of—particularly the famous Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 for solo violin by J.S. Bach. I was skeptical. One of my dark secrets is that I’ve always thought that Bach’s violin sonatas and partitas are far better on the guitar, where the verticalities and the multiple lines can be distinguished more clearly. I realize that I’m in the minority here, but even some of the standard recordings of these pieces have failed to move me in quite the same way as Paul Galbraith’s transcription for his own eight-string guitar. But I decided to give Podger’s version a chance, and it is stunning. (I have not posted a link here because I could not find one that didn’t seem like copyright infringement; but I highly recommend you find this recording!) The lines are clean, the vertical chords are well balanced, and most importantly, Podger’s performance conveys the linear sense of the Chaconne without violently cramming the multiple registers together. It’s airy, almost delicate. I’m not giving up my general preference for the guitar, but Podger has convinced me that these violin works can actually succeed on the violin.

 

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