RACHEL PODGER – Violin CHAD KELLY – Harpsichord

Wednesday 13th January 2016

Giovanni Fontana – Sonata seconda
Dario Castello – Sonata seconda
Girolamo Frescobaldi – Toccata per spinettina e violino
Isabella Leonarda – Sonata duodecima
Arcangelo Corelli – Sonata for violin & basso continuo, Op.5/12 ‘La Follia’
Francesco Veracini – Sonata for violin & continuo in D minor, Op.2/12
Domenico Scarlatti – Keyboard sonata in C minor, K.56, Con spirito
Domenico Scarlatti – Keyboard sonata in C minor, K.58, Fuga
JS Bach – Sonata for violin & keyboard, No.2 in A major, BW1015


A Curate’s Egg of a Baroque concert at the Ilkley Concert Club

Baroque violinist Rachel Podger came to us with a justifiable international reputation for consummate artistry, a lively intelligence in shaping the music and a vivid way of communicating with her audience. Her accompanist Chad Kelly, deputizing for the programmed harpsichordist, has similar credentials and clearly has an interesting career ahead of him. The bulk of the audience responded to their playing with typical Ilkley enthusiasm, but at the end I was left disappointed, and for three reasons.

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I have often in the past when reviewing such concerts complained about the inaudibility of the harpsichord. On this occasion, the single-manual harpsichord used, although an improvement on what we’ve heard before, was not up to fulfilling its role as an equal partner with the violin .

My two other grumbles concern the programming. Composers use a variety of keys to maintain interest. The first six pieces, nearly an hour’s duration, were all in the same key, which gave an enervating sameness to the listening experience. The change of keyboard player brought a change of programme. Instead of the promised aperitif, two snappy Scarlatti sonatas, we were given a main course, a Bach English Suite, (the longest work by far in the evening) which sabotaged the effect of the concluding Bach duo sonata that followed. Marvellous stuff maybe, but the wrong music in the wrong part of the programme.

So now for the good news. Rachel’s use of vibrato is very sparing yet she produces a lovely sweet tone, totally avoiding the scrawniness that affects less skilled players and her rhythmic response is sprightly. Much of the music played in the earlier part of the programme is fairly sketchy on the page and needs embellishing and her improvisatory approach was magical. She was able to invest the more speculative pieces at the start of the evening with real meaning. It was fascinating to follow the growing compositional mastery throughout the evening with both players relishing the climactic genius of J.S.Bach at the end.


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Recommended Recordings



These 4 composers are dealt with on an excellent SACD/CD by Rachel Podger and Marcin Swiatkiewicz entitled “Perla Barocca” – Channel Classics CCS SA 36014. In total, 11 early Italian composers are featured, and the sound quality, as usual from this source, is superb.

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A very fine CD from Hyperion/Helios-CDH 55240 (budget price), from the Purcell Quartet, has “La Follia” plus several Trio Sonatas by Corelli. As an alternative there is a Naxos disc-8.557799 (budget price), featuring François Fernandez (violin) and Glen Wilson (harpsichord), which includes Violin Sonatas Nos. 7-12 of Opus 5.


The Trio Settecento include this Violin Sonata together with works by Corelli, Locatelli, Marini and Tartini, on Cedille CD –CDR 0000099 (full price).


A superb 3 disc set of miscellaneous Scarlatti Harpsichord Sonatas, played by Pierre Hantai, including K.56 and K.58, is available on Mirare MIR273 (3 CDs for the price of 1 full price).


Rachel Podger with Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord) play 9 Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord on Channel Classics CCS 14798 (2 CDs at medium price). The performances are extremely fine, with excellent sound quality.

Raymond Waud.

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