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4.8 out of 5 stars17
4.8 out of 5 stars
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This is one of those recordings which transforms a work. I had struggled for years to like the Sonatas and Partitas, but a succession of recordings by great violinists had left me feeling thoroughly excluded by them. When I heard Rachel Podger, I suddenly saw the utter delight and involving beauty in the pieces. She loses absolutely none of their intellectual weight, but makes them dance, glow and sparkle. In the great Chaconne from the D minor Partita, for example, I had always previously reached the end feeling rather wrung out and exhausted with the effort of trying to penetrate a difficult and forbidding piece. With Podger’s recording I find myself engaged, carried along and very sorry when the final, breath-holding not dies away.
I cannot recommend this set too highly – and now that you get both discs for the price of one, it’s a serious bargain, too.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 December 2005
BBC Radio 3's CD Review chose this as the 'best' version of this incomparable music a while back. I can see why. Rachel Podger gives a wonderful lightness and airiness to it without sacrificing any of the music's gravity or depth. Every movement comes alive, there us contrast and imagination and technically the playing is breathtaking. It's totally involving ; it commands your attention. The difficulties ofthe necessarily spread chords are made light of and it all sound so natural. This music can be doine in many different ways (and I have about 10 recordings of it) but as you listen to this, there seems to be only one - Rachel Podger's.
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on 11 October 2009
I have only been listening to nine different recordings of these works, so I am in fact a complete novice in the field (and no musicologist at all), all the same I will try to give short comments on these nine interpretations that just might help you to choose which set you want to buy.

My personal favourite is no doubt John Holloway's recording (on ECM). When I first heard it I had only been listening to Shlomo Mintz (on DG) and Hilary Hahn (on Sony), so I feared the great Ciaccona/Chaconne of BWV 1004, because both of those artists' interpretations of that movement sounded like musical warfare, full of shrieks and noises. But Hallelujah! Guess what happened? The movement made sense to me for the first time - in Holloway's hands it is actually music! And the rest of the set also sparkles in Holloway's recording. What is so special about Holloway's version is that it has an almost spiritual, metaphysical aspect to it that nobody else achieves. It is a recording full of sublime transcendental beauty. That aspect of course is emphasized by the wonderful church acoustics (another great Manfred Eicher production from ECM). The booklet contains a performer's note and a few facsimile pages of Bach's beautiful handwritten score. If you are looking for just one recording, you don't really have to read further - I recommend that you buy Holloway's set.

If you have not bought Holloway's set yet, I have to say a little more about Mintz and Hahn: The aggressive approach in Mintz' Ciaccona/Chaconne is more or less present throughout Mintz' recording and in my opinion his playing does not quite justify it - it is "agitated" without having a reason to be so. If you want the sort of expressive power which Mintz is trying to put into these works Nathan Milstein (on DG) is a better option. The problem with Hahn is that you are more impressed than moved; she plays fast - some might even say that she is superficial and skates over the essentials. Hahn also has a tendency to romanticize in the slow movements. Besides it is not a complete recording, she only plays half the works (BWV 1004, 1005 and 1006). However, her version of BWV 1006 is probably my favourite because of its exquisite, exuberant brilliance that fits that partita well.

Sigiswald Kuijken (on DHM) is almost as good as Holloway and he almost reaches Holloway's metaphysical heights, but his Ciaccona/Chaconne is not entirely perfect, it sounds like separate movements put together rather than as a whole. The performance has rougher edges than Holloway's, which can be a good thing.

Viktoria Mullova (on Onyx) and Rachel Podger (on Channel) are more down to earth than Holloway, but they both play beautifully. Maybe Podger is a somewhat overrated performer of Bach's music for solo violin. Her recording has been praised by numerous critics and it is so beautiful that I would like to like it more, but isn't it just a little bit boring? I am listening to it right now and again I get this sort of feeling: "Yes, it is beautiful, but why am I listening to it?" That question answers itself when I listen to Holloway or Kuijken. With Kuijken and Holloway playing the music explains itself, it says: "I will just explain how this sounds." If you are looking for clarity and serenity choose Mullova. Make sure you buy the new Onyx set not the old Philips release!

If you want the slow movements played slow and the rest played beautifully by a young talented violinist Julia Fischer (on Pentatone) should be your choice.

Henryk Szeryng's first recording (on Sony) from 1955 is very serious and intense, a haunting (but also demanding) experience. Szeryng later made another recording for DG but I have not heard it (yet). Of course you should expect less than perfect sound on a recording that is more than fifty years old.

Mullova, Kuijken, Podger and Holloway play period instruments.

Szeryng, Mintz, Milstein, Hahn and Fischer play modern instruments.
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on 2 January 2016
Sublime. Rachel Podger works here magic, if you like your Bach mellow this is the one
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Fabulous playing . A committed and passionate account of Bach and an unusually gutsy sound on a baroque instrument.
Would highly recommend to all Bach enthusiasts.
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on 12 August 2012
cant fault this recording playing and quality are superb rachel never fails to please and bach at its very best
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on 5 May 2015
Brilliant. Full of expressive vitality. A total joy.
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on 11 July 2015
excellent music and service
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on 26 December 2011
I only have the Milstein 1975 recording to compare it with. The recordings are so different: Milstein is ascerbic and brutally severe. Podger softens it so much.

Bit like trying to compare Casals and Yo yo Ma in the Cello suites.

Not much point.

Just buy it for less than a tenner.
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on 3 July 2014
May be it is a extraordinary baroque performance, but it does not convey the surmounting of the individual self in favor of a more cosmic experience. Sutil prefere Szeryng
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