In both art and life, violinist Rachel Barton Pine has an extraordinary ability to connect with people. Celebrated as a leading interpreter of great classic and contemporary works, her performances combine her innate gift for emotional communication and her scholarly fascination with historical research. She plays with passion and conviction, thrilling audiences worldwide with her dazzling technique, lustrous tone and infectious joy in music-making.
She makes her Pacific Symphony debut (Nov. 11-13) performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto under the baton of Teddy Abrams, who was recently named “Conductor of the Year” by Musical America. “Mendelssohn is one of the most enduringly popular violin concertos. We think of the Mendelssohn as one of the ‘easier’ concertos, because it doesn’t demand as much stamina or technical virtuosity as Tchaikovsky or other ‘more difficult’ works,” commented Rachel Barton Pine in her Mendelssohn Master Class article for The Strad. “But for a professional, it is extremely challenging: as with any popular piece, you have to make it feel fresh to an audience that has heard it a million times. Not only that, but you can spend a lifetime trying to capture the character, the sound, the phrases and exactly what you are trying to say in the moment.”
Rachel explains further in the article, “I first played this concerto when I was nine with a Romantic interpretation, but in my teens I became aware of more specific Classical styles and started to think of Mendelssohn coming from Mozart rather than going towards Bruch. Finally in my twenties, I played it with flowing Classical tempos and free, Romantic rubato, and that’s how I’ve done it ever since.” She also talks about the perfect opening, recalling once spending her hour-long lesson with Almita Vamos on the bow distribution, emphasis and articulation in just the first three B-naturals that open the piece.
The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto was one of 24 violin concertos Rachel covered during her popular 24 in 24: Concertos from the Inside with RBP, an Olympic-like streaming series available on-demand in which she performed the entire solo part of 24 different violin concertos, live and unaccompanied, over 24 weeks. You may watch or share the free, 20-minute public version of the Mendelssohn episode here.
Rachel has been described by The Washington Post as a “boundary-defying performer” and has been featured on programs including PBS Newshour, NPR’s Tiny Desk, The Today Show, NBC Network News’ “Making a Difference,” and CBS Sunday Morning. Pine began violin studies at age three and made her professional debut at age seven. Today, she performs with major orchestras around the world under the baton of conductors including John Nelson, Zubin Mehta, Erich Leinsdorf, Neeme Järvi and Marin Alsop.
This past July, with just 3 1/2 hours notice, Rachel stepped in for Midori at Ravinia, to perform Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Marin Alsop conducting, when Midori pulled out at the last-minute citing illness.
She was able to pull this off due to her good practice habits and because she had recently completed the concerto in her aforementioned 24 in 24: Concertos from the Inside series.
Rachel began her Herculean #24in24 task during the pandemic because she missed performing these works, which she calls “my life-long companions and best friends.” She had a wonderful time sharing them with audiences in a new way and format.
Rachel’s unique interpretations continue to distinguish her from her peers. She does a staggering amount of research to prepare any piece and says that this baseline of knowledge frees her up to connect to and communicate the emotional truth of what she is performing. She examines the work within its larger context: studying the composer’s life, the historical and music context of the composition, as well as works by that composer outside of the violin repertoire. She jokes that her bedtime reading is often doctoral dissertations.
“I’m always working to find an effective balance between intellectual validity and instinct — good ideas won’t be effective if you don’t feel them inside, but what you feel needs to be backed up by something more meaningful than ‘I like it that way.’ Basically, every performance needs to be a true collaboration between the performer and the composer, even if the composer has long passed away,” she says.
You won’t want to miss Rachel Barton Pine’s exciting first appearance with Pacific Symphony. To learn more about Rachel, please visit RachelBartonPine.com. To purchase tickets for her upcoming debut with us, please click here.