Music Review: Music-making goes beyond virtuosity
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | June 03,2013
Violinist Rachel Barton Pine.
MONTPELIER – Despite Saturday’s sweltering heat, the Unitarian Church was “packed to the rafters” to hear violinist Rachel Barton Pine – and no one had reason to be disappointed.
The high point of the recital, closing the 2012-2013 Capital City Concerts series, was the Sonata for Solo Violin by Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz (b. 1985), whose music has often been performed on this series. This Arabic-flavored major work, at nearly 25 minutes, was written for Barton Pine – resulting in a particularly intimate relationship between the music and the performer.
The five-movement work opens with “Lyric Sketch” in which Middle Eastern melodies intertwine tenderly. “Rounds” conjures up all sorts of fast exotic dances. “For Egypt,” the masterpiece of the work, is a haunting and emotionally powerful lament.
“Scherzo,” the least interesting movement, is lighthearted and virtuosic, like an Arab Paganini. “Lullaby of the Ex Soldat,” written on the birth of Barton Pine’s daughter, the title referring to her Guarneri del Gesù violin, was full of tenderness with an Arab flavor. The violin writing is a contemporary update of Bach’s for solo violin, and while the work is largely tonal, it is clearly contemporary spiced with Arabic modalities (scales).
Barton Pine proved not only a particularly able violinist technically, but musically as well. She played Fairouz’s sonata with a comfort and warmth that conveyed its message directly to the audience. Her warm tone, comfortable virtuosity and natural expressiveness all contributed to this deeply moving performance.
What was billed as a virtuoso violin recital – where the pianist serves as an accompanist – proved to be hardly that. Barton Pine’s longtime recital partner, fellow Chicagoan Matthew Hagle, was more than able in sonatas by Beethoven and Richard Strauss, playing with clarity, power and compelling musicality.
Beethoven’s Sonata No. 3 in E-flat, Opus 12, No. 3, was given an effervescent performance. Although the two didn’t always allow the music to fully breathe and to unfold, they delivered the Beethoven with passion. The slow movement, Adagio con molto espressione, was certainly tenderly expressive.
Although the first movement of Strauss’ early and virtuosic Sonata in E-flat Major, Opus 18, proved somewhat uncomfortable, the slow movement, Andante cantabile was warmly tender. In the finale, they delivered its full rhapsodic nature for an exciting finish.
Dessert was served before the Strauss, which closed the program, in the form of four lullabies from their recently released CD. Most beautiful – and familiar – was Brahms’ “Cradle Song,” a showcase for Barton Pine’s warm sound and stage personality. Particularly intriguing was William Grant Still’s “Mother and Child,” No. 2, from his 1943 Suite, combining a 20th century sound with a timeless tenderness.
Their encore proved totally apt. “Summertime,” from George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess,” was the perfect end for this particularly warm – musically as well as temperature-wise – evening.
Capital City Concerts
For information about the 2013-2014 Capital City Concerts season, go online to www.capitalcityconcerts.org.