Rachel Podger, Baroque violinist, is known for her highly accurate, virtuosic playing, outstanding musicianship and understanding of period style, and a cheerful, warm, and decidedly non-stuffy stage presence.
Her father was British and her mother German. She was educated in Germany at a Rudolf Steiner school and studied violin. When she returned to England she continued violin studies with David Perry, then was admitted to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Pauline Scott and David Takeno as her teachers. She asked to be allowed to study Baroque violin as well as the standard violin with modern set-up, but was told the only Baroque fiddle was already given out to another student. In addition, as she said, “It wasn’t really the thing to do in your first year. You were supposed to establish your technique.”
She did not let this stop her, “So I got hold of an instrument and did it anyway.” She surreptitiously took Baroque violin lessons with Micaela Coberti at the Guildhall and often visited Cambridge where her brother, singer Julian Podger, had founded a small ensemble called Trinity Baroque and gave her a chance to play some of the central Baroque repertory. From her second year on she continued to study with Coberti, “legally, as it were.”
At some point she realized she wanted to be a soloist, that she did not want to be part of a group of violinists in an orchestra (at least not on a back bench), an experience she was frequently encountering even while still at Guildhall as the word got out about her talents and skills.
With three friends, she started playing chamber music regularly and had unexpected success. “We didn’t realize we were a group until we won a competition” she says of the group, which is called the Palladium Ensemble. It is a group with a unique sound since its bass part is played not by a harpsichord and cello, but by viola da gamba (Susanne Henrich is the gambist) or by one of a number of directly plucked instruments such as guitar, theorbo, or archlute, by William Carter. This gives the group a distinctive, oddly folk or country music sound. Palladium records on the Linn Records label of Scotland. In addition, she was one of the original members of Florilegium, a larger chamber ensemble specializing in 17th to early 19th century music.
Palladium and Podger as a soloist soon appeared on major stages in Europe. In 1996, Palladium Ensemble was a headliner in the prestigious international concert series Rising Stars, winning a standing ovation when it appeared in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Since then it has appeared in many European cities and festival sites, as well as in North and South America. It also frequently gives radio concerts.
In 1997, Podger was appointed Concertmaster (or “Leader”) of The English Concert, one of London’s leading period instruments orchestras, and played solo with it on many stops on its tour of Eastern Asia. She has a solo recording of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas on the Channel Classics label. Rachel Podger plays a 1739 instrument made by Genoese luthier Pesarinius.
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