Notes and Editorial Reviews
The title of this double album, Bel Canto Paganini, is the key to Rachel Barton Pine’s unaccompanied violin artistry. Of course one cannot play unaccompanied Paganini without all-encompassing virtuoso equipment, and Pine’s technique is beyond cavil; just sample her deft and supple alternating pizzicato and arco articulation in the “Nel cor più non mi sento” Variations, or her extraordinary textural juggling in Duo merveille (“Duet for One”). However, throughout the Op. 1 Caprices, Pine clearly mines these showpieces for musical values, first and foremost.
For example, she observes all of the repeats. That might prove deadly in the lengthy No. 4 C minor Maestoso caprice or the No. 6 G minor trill study, yet Pine’s wide
expressive and coloristic palette keeps the music alive and meaningful. What is more, she does this without resorting to exaggerated phrasings or dynamic swells.
Her slow and serious No. 13 bypasses the surface humor of the descending “laughing” chromatic thirds while emphasizing the composer’s dolce marking in figurative red ink. The fanfare-like gestures that open the E-flat Caprices Nos. 19 and 23 become provocatively wistful themes, while No. 18’s arpeggiated C major proclamations become softer, more questioning than usual, followed by descending scales that sound more like music than exercises. However, don’t expect scintillation and surface bravura, which James Ehnes serves up in tandem with sound musical values.
Interestingly, Pine lets loose and catches fire in her own Paganini-inspired Variations on “God Defend New Zealand”, proving that she could very well match Perlman, Rabin, Ricci, and Midori at their ebullient peaks. Whether or not Pine’s Paganini will suit all tastes, she unquestionably commands the ways and means to make the best possible case for her conceptions.
– ClassicsToday (Jed Distler)
Pine is principally interested in the musical qualities of these extraordinary, endlessly inventive miniatures, and there’s hardly a moment here where you get any sense of technique taking precedence over expression.
She finds a wonderfully rich range of colors. Double-stopped octaves can almost vanish into the melody (as in No 7), give a fanfare figure a heroic echo (Nos 19 and 23) or throw an eerie shadow like some operatic mad scene (No 15)—as the music demands. Her characterisation is beguiling: Pine lets minor-key melodies droop to a finish, plays teasingly with the rhythmic sideslips of No 13 and makes the famous left-hand pizzicato in No 24 burst like popping candy.
– Gramophone Read less
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