The English violinist, Rachel Podger, was born in England to a British father and a German.mother. She educated at a German Steiner school. She returned to study first with Perry HartWikipedia or David PerryAMG, then at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with David Takeno and Pauline Scott. 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 says, "It wasn't really the thing to do in your first year. You were supposed to establish your technique." Rachel 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, the 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," she says. Her attraction to the Baroque instrument, she says, is the sonority of the gut strings, but she also says that the lighter, curved bow, which requires one to lift the bow and strike the strings, is more sensitive and more quickly exposes tiredness or stiffness, which is also true of the left hand fingering, typically played without vibrato.
At some point she realized Rachel Podger 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 seventeenth- 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. During this period she also worked with period instrument ensembles such as the New London Consort, and London Baroque.
One of the most creative talents to emerge in the field of period performance over the last decade, Rachel Podger has established herself as a leading interpreter of the music of the Baroque and Classical periods. She was leader of the Gabrieli Consort & Players and later of The English Concert from 1997 to 2002, touring extensively, often as soloist in Antonio Vivaldi's le quattro stagioni and grosso mogul concertos. In 2004 she began a guest directorship of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, opening with a tour in the USA with J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos (BWV 1046-1051). She also works as a guest director with Arte dei Suonatori (Poland), Musica Angelica (USA) and Santa Fe Pro Musica (USA), The Academy of Ancient Music and the European Union Baroque Orchestra. As a recitalist Rachel enjoys a busy career; she gives solo concerts across the globe, notably in North America, Western Europe, Korea and Japan.
Teaching forms a significant part of Rachel Podger’s musical life. She is a professor of Baroque violin at both the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and also teaches regularly at the Hochschule in Bremen. She has recently been appointed professor of baroque violin at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. In September 2008, she took up the newly-founded Michaela Comberti Chair for Baroque Violin at the Royal Academy of Music in London. As an accompaniment to her teaching posts, she regularly incorporates master-classes into her busy concert schedule. She is a Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
When not touring with various orchestras and other classical players, Rachel Podger works with her husband in Brecon, South Wales helping young musicians through the Mozart Music Fund, which she founded in 2006, as well as holding workshops and giving recitals. She is a major figure at the annual Brecon Baroque music festival held during the last weekend of October every year.
Rachel Podger’s first solo recordings (Channel Classics Records), of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas (BWV 1001-1006), were released in 1999 to great critical acclaim. These discs were followed by Bach’s Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord with Trevor Pinnock. Both recordings were awarded first place by the BBC’s ‘Building a Library’ programme. Rachel’s recording of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Twelve Fantasies for Solo Violin won the prestigious Diapason d’Or and was listed in the BBC Music Magazine’s ‘top 20’ classical CD’s of 2002. Her Channel Classics’s 2003 recording of A. Vivaldi’s 12 violin concertos La Stravaganza also received the Diapason d’Or and was awarded the 2003 Gramophone Award for Best Baroque Instrumental recording. In 2004 she embarked on a recording of the complete Mozart Sonatas with fortepianist Gary Cooper and Volumes 1 and 2 have already enjoyed critical acclaim including a Gramophone ‘Editor’s Choice’ and a Diapason d’Or.
Rachel Podger 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. She currently plays a violin made in Genoa in 1739 by Pesarini, a later student of Antonio Stradivari. Initially Rachel played a modern Stradivarius copy.
Rachel Podger is an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music. It is limited to 200-odd people and is one of the most ‘exclusive’ and ancient musical fellowships in the world. Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt and Igor Stravinsky treasured theirs and so do Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Christoph von Dohnányi, Kurt Masur, Colin Davis and Charles Mackerras.