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Classiclectic Connection: Rachel Barton Pine, Dvorák & Khachaturian Concertos

Crossover Media
Avie Records

Growing up with a piece of music is something very special for many instrumentalists, and that's something that violin soloist Rachel Barton Pine has done in this new recording (along with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra led by Teddy Abrams), taking on two violin concertos: Dvo?ák's and Khachaturian's. Classiclectic host Kurt Hauswirth had an opportunity to speak with Rachel Barton Pine about this new release from Avie Records:


Kurt: "When people hear your name, they usually think of a jaw dropping violin performance, at least I do. And I'm sure many people know that you've played with just oodles of ensembles...you've played through many masterworks and you've also collaborated with many contemporary composers as well.  You've done these concertos for a long time, they mean a lot to you.  I read that you learned these at the age of 15. And you still play them regularly. Do you feel that you've grown with these pieces? Have they become a part of who you are?

Rachel: Definitely. And I think that's one of the things that defines a great masterpiece, is that you can always find more in it. It almost makes it intimidating to put anything down on album because you realize that you've put in, you know, years, if not decades of work into it, and countless hours, and you have all these thoughts about it that you want to share with the world. And then you think to yourself, hmm, in 10 years, I know that if I keep working hard, I'm going to play it better yet. So, how can I make my recording today? Ultimately, you gotta gotta just do it. But yeah, I've definitely deepened my relationship every time I've returned to them and found more nuances.

K: How did the collaboration process go with you and Teddy Abrams along with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra? Did you approach Teddy and the orchestra with these?  How did the ball get rolling on this project?

R: I was going to record a very different pair of concertos. I won't spill the beans on what what it was, because I actually hope to make that album in the near future. And I don't want anybody to scoop me on it. It's a pairing that I'm very excited about. But in any case, the conductor that I am still hoping to do that pairing with, he had a conflict come up at the last minute. So basically, I didn't want to do that same pair of concertos with a substitute conductor. I wanted to save it for him. And I had the studio, the producer, the orchestra all ready to go for these particular dates. And I thought, well, I don't want to just lose the session, so maybe I can record different concertos. 

Credit Rachel Barton Pine Youtube
Violinist Rachel Barton Pine, recording the album with conductor Teddy Abrams and members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra

R: (About Dvo?ák and Khachaturian) Even though they're from different centuries, they both are just totally infused with these melodies and rhythms of folk music spirit and I felt like they really went together. They were both on my wish list of pieces that I do hope to record in my lifetime, but I had never thought of pairing them until that year. And then with this session, suddenly opening up I thought, okay, that's the pair. I'll do those guys. So, it was really a very spontaneous decision. And then we obviously had to grab a conductor and I'd heard wonderful things about Teddy Abrams and he was able to squeeze it into his schedule. He literally had like two days off, flew to Europe, did this session, and flew right back. (He was so) enthusiastic and did such a great job. And it was it was really a pleasure. Sometimes the plans that come up at the last minute end up being the best plans.

K: You're known for also sharing the history of the musicians, of the music and the composers, in your concerts as you're presenting these grand works. Did you ever consider yourself to be kind of an ethnomusicologist or do you feel that's just part and parcel of someone who presents music like this?

R: Every performer has their own approach. And I was lucky to be homeschooled from third grade on at the suggestion of my elementary school principal. I always have to explain that I did not get expelled. It radically made my childhood more normal because I had time to do all my practicing and play with kids in the afternoon, which I wouldn't have been able to do with a traditional school day and practicing after school. Homeschooling gave me the flexibility to pursue my own interests and dig deep, and that really started spilling over into my approach to music. If I was curious about something, I didn't have to stick to a set curriculum. I could just go over to the library and spend all day later on what the footnotes from one book would lead me to the next book and you know, just learn about different components. And musical traditions and styles and historic violinists. I've really retained that, that love of learning throughout my career. And yeah, I'm kind of a research geek, give me a good dissertation with lots of footnotes. And that's my beach reading.

The full conversation is included in the audio version of this edition of the Classiclectic Connection.

Rachel Barton Pine's album with Teddy Abrams and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra released on Avie Records; more information can be found at her website.

Kurt lives in Marquette with his family and can’t imagine living anywhere else. He loves music, games, running, being near water, and a fine cold brew coffee.
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