Rachel Barton Pine
Elgar – Bruch. Violin Concertos
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Litton, conductor
The unusual combination of Edward Elgar’s and Max Bruch’s Violin Concertos in Rachel Barton Pine’s present recording is not without a precedent as it is directly inspired by the reissue of the same two concertos recorded by Yehudi Menuhin. They were the first two concertos he recorded and were originally independent performances even though now they are indissolubly united. Barton Pine’s wish to record them together has also another, more personal reason as «my physical approach to the violin is very similar for both concertos. Each reminds me of the type of tone that I search for in the other – a certain sound that is warm, rich and soulful», as she states in the booklet notes.
This album was originally intended to be recorded by Barton Pine together with Sir Neville Marriner, with whom she started to study the two works, but the passing away of the conductor before the project could be undertaken forced Andrew Litton to step in. The album is therefore dedicated to the memory of the late conductor.
Barton Pine is renowned for her communicativeness and heartfelt renditions of the works she plays and the Elgar’s and Bruch’s concertos are no exception. In the present recording, she is sympathetically and actively backed by Litton and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in both concertos and it is really a pleasure to hear them playing together. In the long Elgar’s concerto (it doubles in length Bruch’s concerto), Barton Pine offers an emotionally affecting performance, full of technical command and sensitivity. Her sound is natural and bright despite the many difficult passages that she resolves with astonishing ease to allow feelings and emotions to express themselves with a rare kind of warmth, which is exactly her own. What gives this intense “colour” to Elgar’s concerto is in my opinion Barton Pine’s careful choice of dynamics, which in some points create really enthralling effects.
Though shorter, Bruch’s concerto is another gem. Beginning with and Allegro moderato which is relatively sad, it allows the violin to flourish in its initial cadenzas and in the following of the concerto, which Barton Pine, needless to say, performs with all the intensity she is capable of, exploring the possibilities of her instrument with manifest pleasure, but always avoiding self-congratulation. In the Adagio, what Barton Pine already showed in the Allegro moderato assumes an even deeper character and this movement is incredibly soulful. The last movement, Allegro energico, is different in its joyous character and Barton Pine plays it with a sense of liberation which makes it brilliant to the utmost degree.
This album is another, outstanding achievement in Rachel Barton Pine’s discography, a wonder both for her technical skill and emotional commitment, which will be listened to over and over again by a sensitive listener.