VIOLINIST RACHEL BARTON PINE, MAESTRO ANDREW LITTON AND THE BBC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORM ELGAR & BRUCH VIOLIN CONCERTOS ON AVIE RECORDS, AVAILABLE JANUARY 5
Album Is Dedicated to the Memory of Sir Neville Marriner Project Marks the First Time the Bruch and Elgar Violin Concertos -the Shortest and the Longest of the Standard Romantic Performing Repertoire -Have Been Recorded Together
Billboard chart-topping violinist Rachel Barton Pine debuts Elgar & Bruch Violin Concertos, recorded with Maestro Andrew Litton and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, on January 5th. The album marks her 36th recording and fourth album on Avie records (AV 2375). Her previous three Avie albums, Mozart: Complete Violin Concertos with The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner; Bel Canto Paganini: 24 Caprices and other works for solo violin; andTestament: Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach, all debuted at the top of the Billboard Classical charts (positions 3, 3, and 1, respectively).
Pine calls the Elgar & Bruch Violin Concertos an "indulgence in Romanticism." This project is the first time that the shortest of the Romantic violin concertos frequently performed in concert (Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26) has been recorded with the longest (the Elgar Violin Concerto in B Minor, Op. 61). While Pine counts the Menuhin album of Bruch and Elgar as inspiration, it features two performances recorded in sessions many years apart paired together on a reissue.
The Bruch and Elgar Violin Concertos historically don't have much to do with each other, yet Pine has always associated them closely in her mind because each work reminds her of the type of rich and soulful tone she searches for in the other.
Pine dedicates her album to "the memory of a musical hero and generous friend, Sir Neville Marriner." After collaborating with Sir Neville on her album of Mozart Concertos, Pine and Sir Neville planned to reunite on this Elgar Bruch recording. After working with Pine, Sir Neville said, "She is one of the most honest of violin players I have ever heard... there is no utter embellishment, everything is there for a purpose, and musically speaking, it makes such good sense."
The new project was to be Sir Neville's first recording of the Elgar, an especially meaningful project as his teacher (Billy Reed) had collaborated closely with Elgar in the creation of the violin concerto.
"There is such an incredible level of detail in Elgar's score that it almost takes a microscope to study it; there are dots over notes, dashes over notes, instructions for the soloist to play one little spot on the D string and the other spot on the G string, even when sometimes it wouldn't be intuitive to do so. I remember first learning the Elgar when I was starting out as a professional violinist; it took many, many months to not only play Elgar's constant pushing and pulling accurately, but to finally internalize it to the point where the music felt natural. Sir Neville had beautiful things to say about the unusually dense amount of tempo fluctuation markings in the Elgar and placing all these technical challenges at the service of the music," says Pine.
Sadly, Sir Neville passed away shortly before the recording. Maestro Andrew Litton stepped in with the same shared commitment of staying true to the score.
"I'm incredibly grateful to Andrew Litton for doing such an excellent job. Our recording is faithful to 99% of what's in print, and yet the music feels inspired, it is singing through all of us," explains Pine.
"I adore how classical music recording is different from many other genres in that the musicians are all in the same room, recording live. In listening to the recording you can hear how Maestro Litton crafted the orchestral parts with great care; one cannot help but recognize his skill as a musician and an accompanist. Andrew Keener is one of the finest producers in the world and also an Elgar aficionado, and I am so grateful to him for helping to guide our performance with his vast knowledge of and passion for Elgar's music. Add the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and we had a dream team," Pine continues.
While the Elgar was one of the last concertos Pine learned, the Bruch G Minor was the first major Romantic concerto Pine studied, learning it when she was eight years old. At age 11, she performed the last movement of the Bruch violin concerto for eight youth concerts with the Chicago Symphony.
"That was a really incredible experience for me as a young musician. I got the play the same piece publicly again and again and, in doing so, I found ever more layers to it," Pine recalls. "I think one of the things that distinguishes the Bruch violin concerto as a masterpiece is that it feels fresh every time you play it, because there is always more in it to discover."
Pine also recommends the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 as a wonderful introduction to people who are discovering classical music. She often uses the Bruch's opening as an example when discussing the differences between classical and most non-classical music. Pine plays the soloist's first entrance to show how classical performers can slow down or speed up the pulse of classical music, giving it an incredibly wide emotional range versus the steady backbeat of much non-classical music.
"The Bruch is a concerto that violinists often play frequently, and I am proud to have my interpretation recorded, as I feel I have something personal to say about it. I think that the Elgar is less familiar than it should be and that it is not programed as much as it deserves. I sincerely hope that my album will help to increase the awareness of this concerto among the public and with orchestras," says Pine.
A brief history - Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was a self-taught English composer whose well-known works include Pomp and Circumstance Marches and Enigma Variations. His violin concerto premiered in November 1910, performed by Fritz Kreisler and the Royal Philharmonic Society of London with Elgar himself conducting. In crafting the violin part, Elgar consulted extensively with William Henry "Billy" Reed, leader of the London Symphony Orchestra. Elgar himself held it as one of his favorites among his own works and Kreisler declared it to be the greatest violin concerto since those of Beethoven and Brahms. It was the last of Elgar's works to be immediately popular.
Max Bruch (1838-1920) was German and a staunch anti-modernist. His Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op 26 remains a popular Romantic concerto. Bruch began the work in 1864, conducted an early version with Otto von Königslow, consulted with Joseph Joachim and Ferdinand David, and rewrote it at least half a dozen times before finishing it in October 1867. Joseph Joachim gave the premiere of the Bruch violin concerto in January 1868. Nearly four decades later, Joachim described the high esteem to which the concerto had risen with these words: "The Germans have four violin concertos. The greatest, most uncompromising, is Beethoven's. The one by Brahms vies with it in seriousness. The richest, the most seductive was written by Max Bruch. But the most inward, the heart's jewel, is Mendelssohn's."