Rachel Barton-Pine is one of the finest and most interesting performers working today. Her unique look at the performing repertoire for her instrument continues to be one of the most salient features of her artistry. Certainly her interpretive abilities are foremost but her choices of neglected repertoire make any release of her recordings a reason to pay close attention.
In the past she has recorded many a neglected piece based on her interest in the music. She has featured black composers from the baroque to the present and has managed to resurrect unjustly neglected concerti from composers of pretty much every racial and national description. Here she features two lovely seldom heard concertos. The Dvorak concerto from 1789 and the Khachaturian concerto from 1941. Both are major works and a challenge to the soloist and both fit pretty much into the late romantic genre (arguably that would be “post romantic” for the Khachaturian).
The present recording is released on the Avie label which is a progressive independent label which itself boasts an impressive selection of musical works in very fine performances. This disc is a fine example of the work they do and is a great selection for the listener’s library. These two concertos were popular in their day but have not seen inclusion in live performances or recordings as much as other romantic concertos. One could speculate endlessly on why this is so or one could simply celebrate the fact that we are getting to hear them in these fine and definitive recordings.
The Dvorak from 1879 is as tuneful and entertaining as any of its contemporaries (Bruch, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, etc) but for whatever reason has not received as much attention. Regardless of why this is so I would recommend just listening and drawing your own conclusions. This three movement work is as challenging technically and as entertaining a concerto as any currently in regular performance. This work is one of the finest examples of the high romanticism of the late 19th century and one hope this recording will help cement the piece into a more frequent visitor to both concert halls and recordings.
The Khachaturian (from 1940) began its life during the throes of the WWII under the oppressive political scrutiny of Josef Stalin and his regime. Khachaturian, who is now recognized quite properly as an Armenian composer, was then subsumed into the mix of the vast gaggle of countries and cultures under the rubric of the USSR. And while this is not particularly or obviously ethnic as other music from this region it is important to know that the composer’s identity was “Russian” by default and not by choice. Regardless of those considerations one must be grateful for the fact that the oppressive regime was able to recognize a quality work (also one in three movements) and give it the “Stalin prize”. Doubtless there are influences gleaned from the composer’s efforts to not offend the conservative tastes of the ruling elite but the bottom line here is that we have a true masterpiece of the concerto genre and one which deserves serious attention and continued performances.
The useful liner notes are by the soloist, a fact which spotlights her musicological interests and her ability to communicate with an audience verbally as well as musically. In fact a quick perusal of Rachel’s web site will lead the interested to some of her more pedagogical efforts featuring scores of some of these lesser known masterpieces.
And, oh yes, there are large orchestral duties here too. The wonderful Royal Scottish National Orchestra is led by the rising star conductor/composer Teddy Abrams who recently took over leadership of another supporter of new and/or neglected musics, the venerable Louisville Orchestra. Founded in 1937 they have carried the torch for new music and celebrated the inclusion of all genders and ethnicities in their musical vision, an embodiment of the very intent of the phrase, “E Pluribus Unum” especially in this musical context.
All in all a great disc which is unlikely to duplicate anything in your collection but one to which you will doubtless return for sheer entertainment and joy.