This album, largely a re-release of Barton’s groundbreaking recording of 1987 without the Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major by CHEVALIER J.J.O. DE MEUDE-MONPAS (FL. C. 1786) but with the wonderful addition of Florence Price’s Second Violin Concerto of 1952. That alone is worth the price of this disc.
Rachel Barton Pine who made her debut at age 10 with the Chicago Symphony is a world renowned violinist and activist. With this, her 22nd release for Cedille she is clearly a darling of that fabulous hometown label. Her wide range of repertoire reflect a unique sensibility and a revelatory exploration of the work of black composers.
Cedille records has a pretty amazing history of paying attention to black composers. Four of their releases featured the late great black conductor Paul Freeman (1936-2015) whose groundbreaking survey of black composers for Columbia records remain indisputable evidence of their inexcusable neglect as artists. The Cedille recordings mentioned are an extension of Freeman’s original survey.
So let’s take a look at this new release.
JOSEPH BOLOGNE, CHEVALIER DE SAINT-GEORGES (1745-1799)
Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 5, No. 2 (1775) (23:44)
1 Allegro moderato (10:22)
2 Largo (8:35)
3 Rondeau (4:35)
The new lavish biopic will happily reignite interest in this composer. The late conductor Paul Freeman (1936-2015) is the person who really first rescued this man’s work from oblivion. In the first volume of his landmark Black Composers series released March 8th, 1974. He devoted an entire disc to four works by this composer, a contemporary of Mozart and every bit the Austrian’s equal both as composer and performer. Freeman released recordings of his first (of two) symphonies, the first (of some 18) string quartets, one of the few surviving arias from his first opera, “Ernestine”, and the last of his eight symphonies concertante. Barton’s beautiful reading of the A major violin concerto of 1775 (he wrote 14) is her entry into this much needed and ongoing revival. Her reading is warm and very much up to the challenge of the virtuosity of the writing.
JOSÉ WHITE LAFITTE (1835–1918)
Violin Concerto in F-sharp minor (21:32)
4 Allegro (11:39)
5 Adagio ma non troppo (4:50)
6 Allegro moderato (4:58)
This composer, also first brought to light by Maestro Freeman in its premiere recording in volume 7 of the Black Composers series released in June, 1975. The wonderful Aaron Rosand played the violin. Barton’s, released in 1997 is only the second recording of this little known Afro-Cuban composer. The concerto fits with her passion for the high romantic era where virtuosity was (nearly) all.
SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875–1912)
Romance in G major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 39
Encore Chamber Orchestra
Daniel Hege, conductor
This brief Romance for violin and orchestra mirrors similar works by Beethoven and Dvorak. Again her facility with high romanticism serves her well in one of this black English composer’s best known works.
FLORENCE PRICE (1887-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 2 (1952) (14:42)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Jonathon Heyward, conductor
This, along with Price’s first concerto, fourth symphony we’re found in 2009 in a now abandoned house that once belonged to Price. The second concerto is presented in its second recording (both concerti were released on Albany Records in 2018. I haven’t heard that one but after hearing this performance from 2022 it’s hard to imagine it being done better.