American violinist Rachel Barton Pine (b. 1974) began her recording career with the Dorian and Cedille labels in the mid 1990's, which is about where I first encountered her. She continued mostly with Cedille, with an occasional detour to Hannsler and Warner Classics before going to Avie Records in the last few years. Whatever the record company, she has continued to produce well poised and sweetly polished performances, with some of the best sound afforded a violinist. The present disc is no exception.
English composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was forever Elgar. His style is unmistakable, whether in his symphonies, his concertos, or his marches. The Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 is no exception, its opening notes sounding like much else of Elgar's in its aristocratic, ceremonial manner. But then it moves into a slightly melancholy subject that more suits Ms. Barton Pine's music making, a "rich" and "soulful" mood as she describes it. Certainly, rich and soulful are apt descriptors of Ms. Barton Pine's style.
|Rachel Barton Pine|
Anyway, there is much to enjoy in Ms. Barton Pine's recording, including the sensitive way she negotiates the ins and outs, the cogency and mournfulness of the first movement (or as some listeners have suggested, the masculine-feminine dialogue); the ethereal qualities of the central Andante; and the tumultuous poetry of the final movement. Hers is a strong, virtuosic account of a sometimes underrated piece of music. Given the quality of the performance and the sound, this may be the best recording of the Elgar in the catalogue.
Ms. Barton Pine pairs the Elgar with the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 by Max Bruch (1838-1920). This familiar concerto is a work that in many ways imitates, or at least pays tribute, to Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. Bruch premiered a much revised version in 1867, and it soon became a staple of the violin repertoire. Bruch's lush, lofty, lilting melodies seem tailor-made for Ms. Barton Pine's elegantly honed technique so the whole thing comes off as movingly as anybody's.
Producer Andrew Keener and engineer Robert Winter recorded the music at BBC Maida Vale Studio No. 1, Delaware Road, London in January 2017. The sound is full and wide ranging, with the violin well centered, if a trifle close. The depth of image is fine, too, as are the frequency extremes and the dynamic impact. Moreover, there's a pleasant warmth attending the music, along with a touch of hall resonance and an overriding smoothness that compliment Ms. Barton Pine's playing.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: