The violin gives Elizabeth Wallfisch a voice not only as a prominent interpreter of baroque and classical repertoire but also as the instrument of an inspiring leader and director. Always grounded in period performance practice, Libby—as she is universally known—proves herself time and again as a favourite with both audiences and orchestras because of her superb instrumental abilities, her generous and sparkling personality and her impeccable musicianship.
There is certainly no shortage of recordings of these popular Bach violin works, but this one by the Dunedin Consort with violinist Cecilia Bernardini has many aspects to recommend it. At the top of the list must be the soloist's flair of Bernardini herself, playing a bright-eyed 1743 Camillus Camilli violin. In her playing you get the virtuoso energy of the contemporary Italian school without the hard edge, and there is a sense of play in her music-making that one senses Bach would have loved.
Akiko Suwanai (born in 1972) is one of the brightest violinists to have emerged in the late 20th century, winning the Tchaikovsky International Competition, the youngest person to do so, in 1990. She has gone on to an impressive concert and recording career that encompasses both traditional repertoire and world premieres. Her 2006 album J.S. Bach: Violin Concertos was an instant success. Her performance is impressive: incisive, nuanced, and idiomatic. Her tone has an appealing warmth, but she remains true to the character of the music and doesn't lapse into Romantic tone quality or interpretations.
Bach's three well-known Violin Concertos are paired here with a splendid concerto for three violins, reconstructed from the surviving version for three harpsichords, BWV 1064. The composer's fascination with the Italian solo concerto, which resulted in numerous arrangements and compositions, dates to his second Weimar period from 1708 to 1717. However, current research has revealed that Bach wrote the violin concertos around 1720, during his engagement as Kapellmeister in Cöthen. On this recording, soloists Petra Mullejans, Gottfried von der Goltz, and Anne Katharina Schreiber are backed by the matchless Freiburger Barockorchester in dazzling readings of these evergreen favorites.
This is a must for all Bach admirers.
For those who already appreciate Rachel Podger's unique brand of magic I'll just say that this return to recorded Bach is lovely and all that one could hope for. All that one looks for is here, and there is more. For those who are not familiar with Rachel Podger, she is a unique voice among violinists. She has absorbed the principles of late Baroque performance practice and made them a part of herself, so that the articulation and inflection of that rhetorical approach to music flows from her as a natural idiom of expression.