Rachel Barton Pine: A Great Ambassador for the Violin

April 1, 2007 at 04:20 AM · 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!

Replies (30)

April 1, 2007 at 04:33 AM · She's wonderful! I saw her play the 24 caprices last year.

April 1, 2007 at 04:43 AM · She's in a league by herself, as far as I'm concerned.

April 1, 2007 at 04:43 AM · An amazing violinist. Why is the girl not more well-known?!?!?!

April 1, 2007 at 04:48 AM · No, she's really, really famous :)

April 1, 2007 at 03:47 PM · That's great. Since I spent most of my rehearsals last summer on that stage, and knew she was coming to Ripon this month, I kept getting warm fuzzies thinking about it. The Green Lake Festival of Music has her as one of the artists they've featured there before...I don't know what year, though; maybe she'll come back again. Heard an interview of hers a couple of years ago on Wisconsin Public Radio and find her to be a really inspiring, very passionate musician. I can't wait for her latest CD project: a disc in honor of Maud Powell, the first great female American violin virtuoso that very few people remember today (despite the fact she made the American premiere of, if I'm remembering correctly, the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Dvorak concertos). I've wanted to hear more about Powell for ages and so when I heard that RBP was setting down a disc of music she was known for, I shouted a silent "yippee!".

Anyway, she's great. Hope to see her in-person myself someday.

(She has some good videos up on youtube now of some of her performances, including Wieniawski and some Scottish folk songs. Worth checking out for sure.)

April 1, 2007 at 04:27 PM · She is such a cool person. She sent me an email this morning thanking me for a comment I made on one of her videos. Who else would do that? What an amazing person!

April 1, 2007 at 09:31 PM · She has a monster technique, and she has certainly been through a lot. She should teach at a conservatory or university, she certainly seems interested enough in teaching the next generation. Her Erlkonig is outstanding.

April 2, 2007 at 04:13 AM · I clicked on "Directory" by accident instead of "Discussion" and saw that she joined the board recently.

April 2, 2007 at 04:17 AM · She has a great CD out on Dorian, "Liszt: Works for Violin and Piano" with Thomas Labe on piano. Very worthwhile, and the playing is just great.

April 2, 2007 at 04:21 AM · Dr. Labe teaches piano at the university where I teach violin. He's one heck of a pianist!

April 2, 2007 at 04:31 AM · Embarrasing, but I'm not familiar with her. After that nice review I will try to listen to her. Thanks.

April 2, 2007 at 05:16 AM · Ray - go to her web site

People - take a glance at her schedule. In a period of less than one year, she is performing the following with orchestras:

Concerti: Brahms, Beethoven (recording this fall with, I think the RPO), Barber, Tchaikovsky, Paganini #2, Wieniawski #2, Bruch, Symphony Espagnole, Mendelssohn, Bach Double, Four Seasons, as well as Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, Lark Ascending, Carmen Fantasy, Ziguenerweisen; plus last year the complete Paganini Caprices on one program, and this May the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas on one program. And that's just the main stuff. There's chamber music, her baroque group (she uses a Nicola Gagliano for that), recording dates . . . whew! Look here at her schedule. Amazing.

April 2, 2007 at 03:33 PM · Is she really recording the Beethoven? That's probably the one major concerto I would love to hear her play. Either that or the Elgar...

April 2, 2007 at 04:01 PM · She is a wonderful violinist! She gets a gorgeous sound. And her technique is superb!

April 2, 2007 at 04:54 PM · She has played with two of the community orchestras nearest to me; Danville, IL, and Champaign-Urbana. She is doing a lot of giving-back stuff on her website, too, I see.

When she played the Tschaikovsky here, the triplet chords from the hell in the first movement were just effortless, at-tempo, and phrased. Only time I have ever heard that. (I can't even give props to Heifetz here because he played the Auer edition.)

April 2, 2007 at 04:49 PM · Don't miss to check out her mySpace-presence. Lots of entertaining & great stuff. AC/DC for string quartet, a fabulous Brahms VC and a video-documentation about the Scottish Fantasy & other scottish music and her research to play it. A real appetizer for that CD's, I ordered them. Great, versatile artist!

April 2, 2007 at 05:04 PM · She's got monster chops. I really want to see/hear her Erlkonig.

April 2, 2007 at 11:37 PM · If you haven't already seen her videos on youtube you should... I started watching them today and I'm amazed. This has really gotten me quite interested in what she's doing.

April 3, 2007 at 07:11 PM · she also has a great recording of brahms violin concerto with the chicago symphony. it has an extra track featuring her own cadenza. pretty neat stuff.

April 3, 2007 at 07:23 PM · Yes. Her Brahms is the definitive one for me. The 2nd mvmt I like especially.

Yesterday I was looking at her on youtube, the McIntosh's Lament thing, and was wondering about it. It's fun to see her ideas and ability to pull them off, but I was thinking maybe I'd prefer a simple and straight ahead version like an Appalachian fiddler would play. But it didn't look like a fiddle kind of function she was playing for though. I would bet she can really adapt to what's required.

April 3, 2007 at 07:38 PM · i just checked out a few other clips on youtube. i think it's great a "classical" violinist with such amazing technique can embrace and pull off pieces like deep river or david baker compositions.

very nice. just love her sound. she has a lot more recordings out than i realized (per her myspace page and website).

April 3, 2007 at 09:20 PM · How can you not praise someone like RBP? She is a credit to the classical music industry. So giving of her time and talent, and an incredible violinist!

August 14, 2007 at 01:20 PM · Pulling this up out of the archives. I am just so impressed by Rachel Barton Pine that I had to revive this thread, in case someone (like me) missed it. And I LOVE that she finds time to post a blog here, from time to time, as well.

Wow. It's nice having such a talented champion for the classical music industry/world on our side. What an amazing woman, to boot. Great website, too.

August 14, 2007 at 03:33 PM · Awesome!. That's what it's all about.

August 14, 2007 at 03:36 PM · Rachel -- You are simply astonishing!

August 15, 2007 at 12:15 AM · I really really like her playing and technique..but I checked out the Piobrach (sp) on youtube (Macintosh Lament) and do not care for it at all ...and I am primarily a Scottish fiddler...the crunluath and taorluath movements that are so great on the pipes (my son is a piper)that come after the ground just do not translate at all to the violin...

but I really like her Scottish fantasy...

August 15, 2007 at 01:31 AM · I regret to admit that I'd never heard of Rachel Barton Pine until I read her blog on v.com, and I'm so glad I discovered her work. I've downloaded some tracks of hers from iTunes and ordered a CD (American Virtuosa) because of what I read on the blog. She really is wonderful.

August 15, 2007 at 05:41 PM · I have had the true privilege of seeing Rachel in concert as well as in a masterclass setting. She really is great with children and adults and yes she is "dead on" with her comments.

She is just really an all around nice, sweet and VERY talented person... which is great in the classical music world.

I also enjoy the fact she likes heavy metal music... I really would like to hear that CD.

August 16, 2007 at 11:31 AM · She has recorded a more "heavy" cd called Storming the Citadel. Not quite my cup of tea but amusing nevertheless :)

August 16, 2007 at 01:06 PM · It's great to read such wonderful and appreciative comments about a great violinist. She is clearly a great, great violinist. She's an equally great educator (in the best and most comprehensive sense of the term). She is also clearly an true ambassador for music (and not only classical), as well as the violin.

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