Rachel Podger/OAE, St John's Smith Square, review: A delivery of superb Baroque music

Podger’s performance in a rarely-performed concerto by Pisendel was majestic

Michael Church
Monday 30 November 2015 16:28
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The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Violinist Rachel Podger deserved a medal for even contemplating the challenge she was setting herself in this concert with the strings of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment: officiating as both director and soloist in six concertos, and playing one of the most demanding solo works in the entire fiddle repertoire. So allowances were in order at the start: if she short-changed us on what should have been the glowing beauty of the solo part in the opening movement of Bach’s Violin Concerto in E, it was probably because she was pacing herself for what was to come. She brought a lovely sound to the Adagio’s soliloquy, however, and the final Allegro benefited from the OAE’s richness and precision of tone.

In Kati Debretzeni, Margaret Faultless, and Matthew Truscott, Podger could call on three front-rank violinists from the OAE to share the solo duties, and they made ravishing work of Telemann’s Concerto for Four Violins. If Podger’s account of Bach’s great Chaconne lacked the necessary spaciousness and oomph, her performance in a rarely-performed concerto by Pisendel was majestic. Encore: Air on a G String, rinsed blissfully clean of all the usual cliches.

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