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CD Feature: Rachel Barton Pine: "Scottish Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra"

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If you are among those people who are devoted to the violin and a follower of the young virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine then you will be delighted with her new two CD album. The 2 CDs contain recordings of music that all owes its origins to Scottish themes. Rachel Barton Pine takes each piece and gives it an authentic Scottish sound, and the result is something you may never have heard before.

One immediately warms to the violin playing of Rachel Barton Pine, after hearing the opening phrase of the first work here, Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy.” The entrance of the solo violin grabs the attention instantly; her brilliantly fresh approach to the work pays off. Since the work’s addition to the concert repertoire with 78 rpm recordings in 1947, although the work was composed in 1880 when Bruch was resident conductor in Liverpool England, it has gained in popularity. The work was written for the Spanish virtuoso Pablo Sarasate. However this is a performance that gives the work new meaning; Rachel Barton Pine’s research into to its Scottish origin has paid off handsomely.

Barton Pine’s conception of the next work, Sarasate’s “Airs ecossaise,” a work again inspired by the playing of the traditional Scottish fiddlers, and composed by the dedicatee of the first work.  You could be forgiven for thinking that there is a genuine highland fiddler sitting on Ms Pine’s shoulder, the work is performed with dazzling virtuosity. Here is a true virtuoso who plays with speed and accuracy. Violinists and non violinists alike can enjoy the excitement created by Barton Pine.

The second CD of this set has many bonuses particularly what is only the second recording of the Sir Alexander MacKenzie’s “Pibroch Suite,” a really fascinating work again of Scottish origin and beautifully performed by Rachel Barton Pine. Do not be surprised if you imagine that you can actually smell the heather.

Sir John Blackwood McEwen’s Scottish Rhapsody “Prince Charlie” is a world premier recording. Originally written for violin and piano the rhapsody is presented here in the orchestral version written 20 years after its composition. Ms Pine is the first performer to record the work in its orchestral version, which exists only in the composer’s manuscript.

On the next track Rachel Barton Pine collaborates with violinist Alasdair Fraser in a “Melody of Scots Tunes.”
We are told that the two artists worked very closely together on the compositions to achieve the authentic Scottish fiddling that we hear on these discs. Ms Pine spent some time in Scotland absorbing the Scottish violin tradition in order to incorporate it into her composition. The two violinists gel together to produce a work of such hair raising excitement as if they had been playing this type of music all their lives. The work’s whiskey fumed explosive finale will carry you off on a cloud until finally you find yourself in a world of Scottish Magic from which you may not wish to return.

Cedille Records have been very adventurous in adding a video documentary “The Making of Scottish Fantasies” of how the project was conceived and finally put together in one value packed CD set. In the video we see Barton Pine playing in the Usher Hall Edinburgh where the Bruch work was recorded. We see her playing in a Scottish pub with Alasdair Fraser, Barton Pine is absorbing the atmosphere and totally immersing herself in the traditional Scottish music. The music can only be described as exciting to the ear and the video beautiful to the eye.

The slip notes give a tremendous amount of information. All the questions you want to ask about the music and the artists are more than adequately documented. It would be hard to find better value for money, a 2 disc set (sold at a single disc price) considering the wealth of material contained on the discs. Scottish Fantasies by Rachel Barton Pine will make a welcome addition to any collection and will surely be played frequently.

By Cheniston K Roland

Homepage: Rachel Barton Pine
Label: Cedille Records

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