Rachel Barton Pine
Mendelssohn & Schumann: Violin Concertos
Göttinger Symphonie Orchester
Christoph-Mathias Mueller, conductor
After reading the booklet notes that accompanies Rachel Barton Pine’s album devoted to violin works by three of the major German composers of the 19th century (Mendelssohn, Schumann and Beethoven), one has the impression that the vital core of the recording is Schumann’s concerto. Despite the flaws, weaknesses and endless debate on this complex and contested work written by Schumann at the end of his unhappy life and the reservations that Barton Pine herself confesses in her notes, the Violin concerto in D minor is the work with which began the collaboration of the violinist with the conductor of this album, Christoph-Mathias Mueller, and it was precisely after his advices that Barton Pine persuaded herself to pay attention to this highly demanding and criticized work. The Beethoven’s Romances, probably composed between 1798 (the no. 2 in F major) and 1801-1802 (the no. 1 in G major), were suggested to Barton Pine when the recording of the album was already advanced, and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor is one of the works that Barton Pine performs more often, so that its presence was a little more foreseeable.
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto has anyway the undisputable merit to be the first work of the album – a wise and captivating choice as it allows to hear immediately and without any orchestral introduction the sound of the violin and to introduce the listener into the charming world that Barton Pine is able to depict in her performances. To do this, she has not only the invaluable virtue to combine an excellent technique that helps her in the most arduous passages, especially in Schumann’s concerto, and to solve the difficulties to perfection, but above all her warm interpretation gives the impression that she never interrupts the dialogue with the orchestra and, on a higher level, with the listener. The mellifluous sound of her instrument is another, precious support to achieve this aim and this is another feature that conquer the listener from the very first note.
The four works of the album are very different from each other, but Barton Pine and Mueller, leading the Göttinger Symphonie Orchester, are able to create an atmosphere that gives a sense of unity to the entire album without betraying the individual spirit of the compositions and it is possible to verify how Mendelssohn’s concerto is played with sweetness and grace avoiding any excess that would have made it mawkish and to compare it with Beethoven’s Romances that seem its ideal extension, although Barton Pine performs the second as if it was a lullaby. Schumann’s concerto follows this path, but it has the peculiarity to emphasize the intensity and emotion listened before and to make them poignant, especially in the first movement (In kraftigem, nicht zu schnellem Tempo), while in the last (Lebhaft, doch nicht schnell) an exalted character prevails.
The album is wonderful, a delight. Barton Pine is an accomplished violinist that has found with Mueller and the Göttinger Symphonie Orchester her ideal accompaniment and this, together with her own talent, is what makes these works so enthralling and enjoyable despite the weaknesses of the score (in the case of Schumann’s concerto) or the popularity and therefore the expectations that create the work itself (as Mendelssohn’s).