Rachel Barton Pine, violin. Cedille Records CDR 90000 124.
Violinist Rachel Barton Pine is Cedille Records' biggest-selling artist, and for good reason. She plays with virtuosic flair yet always with refined and cultured style. For instance, her Cedille recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Jose Serebrier and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is among my favorites. On the present disc she essays a selection of music by Spanish, Central American, and South American composers, arranged for solo violin. As we might expect, it's beautiful, strange, exciting, and always captivating.
On fourteen tracks, Ms. Pine plays the music of composers Isaac Albeniz, Roque Cordero, Cesar Espejo, Manuel Quiroga, Eugene Ysaye, Louis Jorge Gonzalez, Jose White, Francisco Tarrega, Joaquin Rodrigo, Jose Serebrier, Astor Piazzolla, and Alan Rideout. Several of the works are world-première recordings for the arrangements: Albeniz's Asturias (Leyenda), Cordero's Rapsodia Panamena, Espejo's Prelude Ilberique, Gonzalez's Epitalamio, White's Etude No. 6, and Serebrier's Aires de Tango.
Albeniz's Austurias, arranged by Ms. Pine herself, shows her dexterity on the violin as well as her musical expressiveness. Additionally, she imbues the music with a lusty sensuousness and brawny ruggedness that is quite beguiling. While some of the music on the disc the composers wrote specifically for solo violin and many others they wrote for piano or guitar, it makes no difference; all of it sounds entirely appropriate on the violin as though the composers wrote all of it for the instrument.
The Quiroga piece, Emigrantes Celtas, is especially nostalgic and haunting. Then, his music in Terra!! A Nosa!! sounds positively festive and not a little Scottish. Jose White's Etude No. 6 is more mainstream than most of the other works on the album and strikes a Romantic note in the program. Tarrega's familiar Recuerdos de la Alhambra is always welcome, even if Ms. Pine plays it a brisk pace. Serebrier's Aires de Tango, which the conductor-composer dedicated to Ms. Pine, also comes off felicitously. Finally, I enjoyed the concluding piece, Rideout's Ferdinand the Bull, with noted actor Hector Elizondo narrating the famous story to Rideout's music. It makes a sweet and effective ending to the proceedings.
One of my favorite audio engineers, Bill Maylone, recorded Ms. Pine in the Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio, WFMT, Chicago, Illinois, between July 2009 and January 2011. The sound is excellent, the miking set up at an ideal distance to capture the instrument in precise detail, yet with a well-judged air around it, the warm ambience of the acoustic imparting a lovely glow to the violin. This is reach-out-and-touch-it sound that is sure to please any music lover or audiophile. Extensive booklet notes cap off a rewarding package from Cedille Records.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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