New Classical Tracks®

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine records 'headbanger' concerto

Rachel Barton PineAndrew Eccles

New Classical Tracks: Rachel Barton Pine (extended)


February 26, 2020
New Classical Tracks: Rachel Barton Pine
by MPR

Rachel Barton Pine/Teddy Abrams/Scottish National Orchestra — Dvorak/Khachaturian Violin Concertos (Avie)

What happens when you have hall and a producer reserved and ready to go, and your musical collaborator has to back out at the last minute?

If you're violinist Rachel Barton Pine, you find a new collaborator, and you record two concertos that have been on your bucket list for a long time.

Teddy Abrams and the Scottish National Orchestra join Rachel on her 39th recording, which features violin concertos by Antonin Dvorak and Aram Khachaturian.

"The Dvorak and Khachaturian are both ones that I've performed frequently over the years. And they were both on my list of things I hoped to record in my lifetime, but I'd never thought of putting them together. I happened to be playing both of them that same season. It really struck me that both of them were very inspired by Eastern European folk music and had that wonderful flavor infusing them. And I thought they would go really well together. So that's how it happened. Very, very spontaneous.

"When I first heard each of these pieces when I was younger, it was not only the exciting rhythms and the virtuoso sections and the gorgeous melodies, but also the colors of the orchestration of each one.

"Khachaturian with a much larger orchestration — very, very vibrant. Lots more tutti sections — where the orchestra plays without the soloist — in the Khachaturian, and they get many moments in the spotlight, including in the second movement. There's a whole extended viola section solo, which sounds like the start of a viola joke or something, but it's actually just really wonderful and something that you don't often encounter in concertos."

It's kind of fun to know that huge viola section solo in the second movement is actually one of your favorite parts, considering the fact that you're not even playing there!

"Yeah, and actually the end of the second movement is almost like some epic scene from an old movie. There's just a drama to it, where it sounds like some tragic, climactic scene, in that I play my melody, and then the orchestra just takes over. It's just like, whoa. It's one of those moments where I realize that I am not only getting to play the performance, but, at other moments, I have the best seat in the house to listen to the performance right up there on stage."

You are a heavy metal fan. Are you still in your heavy metal band?

"No, sadly, we disbanded. We shook hands and called it a day."

This Khachaturian feeds your love of heavy metal music. Can you talk a little bit about that?

"When I first learned it, when I was 15, that very opening violin solo is literally the same rhythmic pattern as so many speed metal riffs. I was like, oh, my gosh. Finally, a concerto I can headbang to."

One of my favorite stories about the making of this recording is that you recorded the Dvorak concerto on August 22, which was also the birthday of your violin hero Maud Powell, and she has a connection to this concerto. Would you share that story?

"She was certainly an early champion of the Dvorak. And there's a whole wonderful exchange that she had with him, where she wanted to play it for him before going off and performing it, to get his advice about her interpretation. And Maud Powell, it should be mentioned, had studied in Berlin with Joseph Joachim. Dvorak, of course, had this terrible experience with Joachim in the creation of his concerto. And so Dvorak said, 'By the way, I should tell you that Joachim said that no woman would be able to play my concerto.'

"And Maud Powell was like, 'OK, OK.' And she proceeded to play it. And, at the end, Dvorak very cheekily said that he should write immediately to Joachim and let him know that he had found a woman who could play his concerto."

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


Rachel Barton Pine — Dvorak/Khachaturian Violin Concertos (Amazon)