RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Asturias (Leyenda) arr. Rachel Barton Pine [6:02]
Roque CORDERO (1917-2008)
Rapsodia Panameña [9:14]
Balada Española (Romance) (arr. Jesús Florido)
César ESPEJO (1892-1988)
Prélude Ibérique (a Henryk Szeryng) [4:44]
Manuel QUIROGA (1892-1961)
Emigrantes Celtas [3:09]
Terra!! Á Nosa!! [2:10]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Sonata No.6 (a Manuel Quiroga) [6:34]
Luis Jorge GONZÁLEZ (b.1936)
Epitalamio Tanguero (a Rachel y Greg) [5:48]
José WHITE (1835-1918)
Etude No.6 (a Secundino Arango) [5:11]
Francesco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra arr. Ruggiero Ricci [3:47]
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Capriccio (Offrande à Sarasate) [6:18]
José SEREBRIER (b.1938)
Aires de Tango (a Rachel Barton-Pine) [8:18]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Tango Etude No.3 con Libertango arr. Rachel Barton Pine [4:22]
Alan RIDOUT (1934-1996)
Ferdinand the Bull* [10:43]
Rachel Barton-Pine (violin); Héctor Elizondo* (narrator)
rec. Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio WFMT Chicago USA 13-15, 17-18 July 2009 and 6 January 2011 (violin works) and DG Entertainment Los Angeles USA, 8 December 2010 (narration)
CEDILLE RECORDS CDR 90000 124 [79:38]
Certain performers you just trust. It goes beyond being a fan or even liking how they perform. This is a case of knowing if it’s good enough for X or Y it’s good enough for me. Rachel Barton Pine is my trusted performer par excellence. Her technique is a given, her musicianship amongst the very best, but what I really like and admire about Barton-Pine is the questing curiosity of her programming. And it really is her programming – no contractual obligation discs here or compilations planned by others, she pursues her own passions and interests and in doing so produces discs of exemplary quality. In this pursuit of excellence she is helped in no small way by her main record company – Cedille. This seems to be an ideally symbiotic relationship – Barton-Pine is their best-selling artist – but they back her up with a product that oozes class from the superb production and engineering to the tasteful artwork and extended fascinating liner-notes.
With a preamble like that I am delighted to be able to report that this new disc is every bit as good as, if not better than, those that have come before. Better possibly because Barton-Pine tackles the potentially thorny, aurally fatiguing repertoire of the solo violin. As is so often the case there is a vast gulf between the actual quantity of music written for solo violin and that which actually gets recorded. Go beyond Bach, Paganini and Ysaye – with some Bartók and/or Prokofiev thrown in - and most collectors will be scratching around for many other works in their collections. Yet this represents the tiniest tip of an imposing iceberg. In her characteristically personal yet informative note Barton-Pine points the reader towards Harry Edlund’s Music for Solo Violin Unaccompanied. This lists some 2,500 pieces of which Edlund had a library of over 1000. Barton-Pine has inherited this library and it is impossible to imagine this remarkable resource in safer or better hands. The idea for this disc sprang from her investigation of this library and the realisation that there was the potential for an album with a Spanish/Latin-American theme. If this album contains some 14 tracks, and there are 1000 pieces in the library – I reckon we must be good for another fifty or so discs worth!
Barton-Pine’s programming genius – and I do mean genius – is her ability to combine the relatively familiar with the less known and the never-knew-existed. Perhaps its just me but this kind of disc has me gurgling with delight. Of the 14 items no less than 8 are world premiere recordings and even the best known piece – Ysaye’s Sonata No.6 (a Manuel Quiroga) takes on a whole new character when placed in context with original Quiroga compositions. Quite bravely – or so it seemed before listening – the disc opens with Barton-Pine’s own transcription of Albéniz’s Asturias. Elbio Barilari in his extended but consistently fascinating liner-note considers this “the best-known piece of Spanish Classical music”. Fans of Rodrigo’s guitar concertos might beg to differ but it is up there in the top ten for sure. Barton-Pine’s transcription is a miraculous fusion of the original work with virtuosic violin techniques that are as hard to do as she makes them sound easy. I wonder if Barton-Pine the player ever looks at herself the arranger in the mirror and wonders why she was so tough on herself! This track sets the tone for the entire disc – music of dizzyingly technical demands dispatched with flamboyant pyrotechnic nonchalance.
Readers may question whether nearly eighty minutes - more praise here for the value of a disc running just 22 seconds short of that time - of superficially similar music will bore the listener. Not at all – the variety that has been found within the genre is remarkable. Cordero’s Rapsodia Panameña fuses serial techniques with Latin influences much in the style of Ginastera while White’s Etude No.6 [track 9] is much more a traditional virtuosic concert piece. Usually I would find myself having distinct favourites in such a mixed bag as here but that is not the case this time. For example hearing the two pieces by virtuoso violinist/composer Manuel Quiroga [tracks 5 and 6] followed by the Ysaÿe solo sonata dedicated to (almost in the style of really) him is a fascinating listen. This solo sonata has been performed and recorded by nearly all of the world’s great players and usually in the context of the other five sonatas. Barton-Pine’s performance is the equal of any I have heard on a note-by-note basis but more than that she so fully inhabits the temperament of the spirit behind the notes. In a very different style, Ruggiero Ricci’s own transcription of the Tárrega Recuerdos de la Alhambra is masterly. Ricci manages to recreate the aural effect of a strumming guitar quite uncannily and Barton-Pine executes the piece with simply phenomenal precision and passion. Even Piazzolla’s Libertango - here fused with the flute-originated Tango Etude No.3 - which is in danger of becoming overplayed comes up spick and span. Possibly the biggest surprise of all is the final work; Alan Ridout’s Ferdinand the Bull for narrator and solo violin. I’m not really a fan of narrated pieces which tend to be twee in the text and laboriously pictorial in the accompaniment. Here the text is of itself charming and helped by the slightly subversive twinkle-in-the-eye narration of Héctor Elizondo. He has a wonderfully resonant voice with a clearly Latin-American accent but his great skill is to make the story fun – when he describes Ferdinand mother; “.. she was a cow” it is a genuinely hilarious moment. Ridout’s skill is to have written a truly virtuosic accompaniment that supports the atmosphere of the story without slavishly illustrating it. OK so this probably won’t be track on this CD I play most often but I am very glad it is there. I wonder why it was necessary to record the narration and accompaniment separately? – not that you would know this from listening, it is listed as such in the technical detail.
I rather like the fact that a violin playing friend, colleague and arranger of track 3 – Jesús Florido is listed as the ‘Style Director’ – a kind of language coach for the violin. This illustrates Barton-Pine’s collaborative nature. One final mention for the technical team who have ensured that the 1742 Guarneri del Gesu played throughout the programme sounds magnificent with a 24 bit recording that is full and warm. Cedille is a not-for-profit foundation who seek to promote the finest Chicago-based players and ensembles. Many congratulations to them for supporting artists of the stature of Rachel Barton-Pine and allowing to pursue their goals and letting us hear the results. Barton-Pine’s recent recording of the Glazunov concerto on the mainstream Warner label was justly well received and as I have mentioned her other discs for Cedille are uniformly superb. If I had to point listeners towards any it would be the Scottish Fantasies disc (again mixing real rarities and more familiar) or her American Virtuosa: Tribute to Maud Powell disc – this latter capturing perfectly her remarkable musicianship and curiosity. Having said all that I am not sure that this disc does not take itself to the very top of the list of her discs to seek out. Even by her own formidable standards the music and her performance of it is of staggering quality. By the pricking of my thumbs a disc-of-the-year this way comes.
Full marks to Cedille for a nice clear good-sized unfussy sans-serif font on simple white paper for the insert booklet.
Even by Barton-Pine’s formidable standards this is of staggering quality.
You might also like to note Barton-Pine’s other Cedille discs:-
Beethoven and Clementi concertos
Joachim and Brahms concertos
An Italian Sojourn
A German Bouquet