Rachel Barton Pine played Paganini #2 with our decent but hardly spectacular college-community orchestra yesterday. And played spectacularly. But she didn't just do that; on a 2-day visit she:
* Visited two elementary schools and the middle school, playing parts of "Winter" (Vivaldi) and getting the kids involved in a variety of creative ways (she said only the absence of the high school musicians on a trip kept her from going there too).
* Did a college class.
* Presided over a 90-minute master class (I was privileged to be one of the 2 people + 1 quartet playing). Her comments were laser-sharp, articulate, and extremely helpful. Her detailed comparison and demonstration of Mozart #3 (G) to an aria from a Mozart opera was especially insightful (that wasn't mine, I played Bach). Get her for a master class if you can.
* Did a 60-minute seminar on the history of the Paganini, and her violin, and a comparison of both Paganini concerti with the Brahms concerto. At one point she picked one of the most challenging passages from the first movement of the Brahms, and proceeded to whip through it - 4 times flawlessly, showing different stylistic approaches to playing it. Then she explained how she wrote her cadenza to the Paganini #2, which was an absolutely first-class cadenza, really added to the performance.
* Oh yes, she played the Pag with the orchestra, 3 times (Thursday night rehearsal, Friday run through 2+ hrs before the concert, and the concert). Beautifully every time, and not quite the same every time. Very creative. The sound of her Del Gesu, which Brahms once helped violinist Soldat procure, was rich and glorious. I was happy to be in the same room with it.
* After the concert, she was content to just hang out with mostly students (and a few of us adult hangers-on) at a restaurant reception, delightful and completely unassuming in conversation. And generous with her time, because she finally left at 11:30 pm for a 3-hour drive home, facing an 11 am Trout Quintet rehearsal the next morning. She could have easily bailed out right after her performance (before intermission).
* Did she play a solo encore after the standing ovation (in this case, well deserved)? Nope, 4 days before she'd enlisted the conductor, a fine young cellist, Peabody grad (named Russell Rolen), to do the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia. Performance: brilliant and passionate.
One notable comment she made: she always wants to find room in her schedule to play with college and community orchestras, because that's where the next generation of classical music supporters is coming from. How many great artists do that?
I've gone on too long (and am leaving out all sorts of gems from her). Suffice to say my conclusion: awe-inspiring, and if classical musicians used her as a model, we would face a bright future.
PS She's not performing the Paganini anywhere else. She just dusted it off from her >5 year old "archives" because it was something our college/community orchestra could handle!
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