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Laurence Vittes
Strings Magazine, February 2014

Representing composers from Argentina, Cuba, Panama, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela, plus works in a Spanish vein by Belgian and English composers, Rachel Barton Pine’s dramatic new CD of music for solo violin includes many first-time recordings of pieces composed or arranged for Pine, plus two of her own arrangements.

…Pine has made brilliant discoveries here, including Roque Cordero’s complex and rewarding Rapsodia Panameña; two stunners by the Galician virtuoso Manuel Quiroga…Uruguayan composer/conductor Jose Serebrier’s Aires de Tango, written for this recording; and a hair-raising Astor Piazzolla arrangement by Pine herself.

Pine’s connections with the music become personal with Luis Jorge González’s vivid Epitalamio Tanguero…The program ends with Alain Ridout’s charming Ferdinand the Bull, featuring a bluff, adorable Hector Elizondo as the narrator. In among the larger pieces, Pine shows a genius for simplicity in the arrangements and adaptations, as in Jesús Florido’s commissioned adaptation of the popular guitar romance, Balada Española.

Elbio Barilari’s liner notes mix absorbing historical background with insightful comments from Pine. As for the sound, producer Judith Sherman, the WFMT studios in Chicago, and Pine’s “ex-Soldat” Guarneri del Gesu…Vision Titanium Solo strings by Thomastik-Infeld, and Dominique Peccatte bow were clearly made for each other. © 2014 Strings Magazine Read complete review

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, January 2012

all are executed with the fiery brilliance and absolute commitment that we now associate with Pine—is there another violinist alive that so wholeheartedly believes in the music she plays?—and the time passes all too quickly. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Laurie Niles, December 2011

2011 guide to holiday gifts

What a lot of treasures Rachel Barton Pine has uncovered in this album of solo violin works, “Capricho Latino.” One of my favorite pieces on this album is her rendition of Francisco Tárrega’s “Recuerdos de la Alhambra,” arranged by Ruggiero Ricci. Certainly, if you need a little inspiration, and perhaps another piece for your recital, listen to this album! © 2011 See complete list

John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune, December 2011

The Chicago virtuoso’s recital of Latin-flavored solo violin pieces is a gold mine of fiddle gems, superlatively played, including works written for Pine and pieces and arrangements that appear on disc for the first time. © 2011 Chicago Tribune

Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, December 2011

The ever-wonderful Rachel Barton-Pine producing a disc of typically brilliant unusual programming played with her remarkable technical ease and musical insight. A performer of exceptional intelligence and ability. © MusicWeb International

Joseph Magil
American Record Guide, November 2011

This is an interesting packaging idea…I must say that it is a very well balanced program…the pieces are so well chosen.

Ms Pine draws a wonderfully rich tone from the ex-Soldat Guarnerius del Gesu of 1742.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, October 2011

With the exception of Alan Ridout’s 1971 Ferdinand the Bull, Rachel Barton Pine’s disc consists of solo violin fireworks predicated on Latino lines. Even when the composer is Ysaÿe, in one of his famous 1923 solo sonatas, the recipient of the dedication is the violinist Manuel Quiroga, and the work infused with the dedicatee’s Iberian passion. For good measure we are helpfully treated to two of Quiroga’s own pieces, and these are real rarities on disc.

In fact it’s as well to begin with this virtuoso fiddler. Like its companion piece Emigrantes Celtas was written the year after Ysaye’s solo sonatas, so it’s been cannily chosen for reasons both of chronology and content. It’s a melancholy fantasy whereas Terra!! Á Nosa!! Is a vibrant folklotic drama complete with bagpipe drone imitations. Incidentally Quiroga did record some of his own compositions but never the solo works. He was a bewitching colourist and his genre pieces reflect his vivid sense of drama. Barton Pine has arranged Albéniz’s Asturias cleverly fusing the piano and guitar arrangements. But she’s certainly not averse to broadening the repertoire substantially, which she does when tackling Roque Cordero’s Rapsodia Panameña. This work is an uneasy accommodation of Panamanian ease and abrasive twelve-tone writing, a bridge never wholly successfully realised to my mind, though others may well disagree. The Balada Española is better known as the music from the film Jeux interdits and from Narciso Yepes’s guitar recording. It survives the translation to violin, with all the associated transformative difficulties of melodic projection rather well.

César Espejo wrote his Prélude Ibérique in 1958 for Henryk Szeryng. It’s a busy, virtuosic affair, quite showy in places, and Barton Pine responds with some intense vibrato. Another technically difficult piece is that of Luis Jorge González whose Epitalamio Tanguero was written in 2004 for the soloist and her husband. We also have the old world charm of José White, whose Etude No.6 is a dancing affair, and that guitar standby, Recuerdos de la Alhambra which Ruggiero Ricci has arranged, and very adeptly, for violin. Serebrier’s Aires de Tango is another piece dedicated to Barton Pine and its melancholy romanticism comes buttressed by fast bowing demands. Piazzolla’s Tango was arranged by the soloist and it opens with uncharacteristic ‘machine gun’ attacca. The difference in acoustic between the reciter, Héctor Elizondo, and Barton Pine is not beneficial to Ferdinand the Bull, a witty and imaginative tale, well told, and finely performed. Barton Pine is in the Levon Chilingirian class in this performance.

For those who fancy the concentrated pleasures of a Latin or Latin-inspired solo violin outing, this imaginatively selected programme has been excellently realised.

Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, October 2011

Certain performers you just trust. It goes beyond being a fan or even liking how they perform. This is a case of knowing if it’s good enough for X or Y it’s good enough for me. Rachel Barton Pine is my trusted performer par excellence. Her technique is a given, her musicianship amongst the very best, but what I really like and admire about Barton-Pine is the questing curiosity of her programming. And it really is her programming—no contractual obligation discs here or compilations planned by others, she pursues her own passions and interests and in doing so produces discs of exemplary quality. In this pursuit of excellence she is helped in no small way by her main record company—Cedille. This seems to be an ideally symbiotic relationship—Barton-Pine is their best-selling artist—but they back her up with a product that oozes class from the superb production and engineering to the tasteful artwork and extended fascinating liner-notes.

With a preamble like that I am delighted to be able to report that this new disc is every bit as good as, if not better than, those that have come before. Better possibly because Barton-Pine tackles the potentially thorny, aurally fatiguing repertoire of the solo violin. As is so often the case there is a vast gulf between the actual quantity of music written for solo violin and that which actually gets recorded. Go beyond Bach, Paganini and Ysaye—with some Bartók and/or Prokofiev thrown in—and most collectors will be scratching around for many other works in their collections. Yet this represents the tiniest tip of an imposing iceberg. In her characteristically personal yet informative note Barton-Pine points the reader towards Harry Edlund’s Music for Solo Violin Unaccompanied. This lists some 2,500 pieces of which Edlund had a library of over 1000. Barton-Pine has inherited this library and it is impossible to imagine this remarkable resource in safer or better hands. The idea for this disc sprang from her investigation of this library and the realisation that there was the potential for an album with a Spanish/Latin-American theme. If this album contains some 14 tracks, and there are 1000 pieces in the library—I reckon we must be good for another fifty or so discs worth!

Barton-Pine’s programming genius—and I do mean genius—is her ability to combine the relatively familiar with the less known and the never-knew-existed. Perhaps its just me but this kind of disc has me gurgling with delight. Of the 14 items no less than 8 are world premiere recordings and even the best known piece—Ysaye’s Sonata No.6 (a Manuel Quiroga) takes on a whole new character when placed in context with original Quiroga compositions. Quite bravely—or so it seemed before listening—the disc opens with Barton-Pine’s own transcription of Albéniz’s Asturias. Elbio Barilari in his extended but consistently fascinating liner-note considers this “the best-known piece of Spanish Classical music”. Fans of Rodrigo’s guitar concertos might beg to differ but it is up there in the top ten for sure. Barton-Pine’s transcription is a miraculous fusion of the original work with virtuosic violin techniques that are as hard to do as she makes them sound easy. I wonder if Barton-Pine the player ever looks at herself the arranger in the mirror and wonders why she was so tough on herself! This track sets the tone for the entire disc—music of dizzyingly technical demands dispatched with flamboyant pyrotechnic nonchalance.

Readers may question whether nearly eighty minutes—more praise here for the value of a disc running just 22 seconds short of that time—of superficially similar music will bore the listener. Not at all—the variety that has been found within the genre is remarkable. Cordero’s Rapsodia Panameña fuses serial techniques with Latin influences much in the style of Ginastera while White’s Etude No.6 [track 9] is much more a traditional virtuosic concert piece. Usually I would find myself having distinct favourites in such a mixed bag as here but that is not the case this time. For example hearing the two pieces by virtuoso violinist/composer Manuel Quiroga [tracks 5 and 6] followed by the Ysaÿe solo sonata dedicated to (almost in the style of really) him is a fascinating listen. This solo sonata has been performed and recorded by nearly all of the world’s great players and usually in the context of the other five sonatas. Barton-Pine’s performance is the equal of any I have heard on a note-by-note basis but more than that she so fully inhabits the temperament of the spirit behind the notes. In a very different style, Ruggiero Ricci’s own transcription of the Tárrega Recuerdos de la Alhambra is masterly. Ricci manages to recreate the aural effect of a strumming guitar quite uncannily and Barton-Pine executes the piece with simply phenomenal precision and passion. Even Piazzolla’s Libertango—here fused with the flute-originated Tango Etude No.3—which is in danger of becoming overplayed comes up spick and span. Possibly the biggest surprise of all is the final work; Alan Ridout’s Ferdinand the Bull for narrator and solo violin. I’m not really a fan of narrated pieces which tend to be twee in the text and laboriously pictorial in the accompaniment. Here the text is of itself charming and helped by the slightly subversive twinkle-in-the-eye narration of Héctor Elizondo. He has a wonderfully resonant voice with a clearly Latin-American accent but his great skill is to make the story fun—when he describes Ferdinand mother; “.. she was a cow” it is a genuinely hilarious moment. Ridout’s skill is to have written a truly virtuosic accompaniment that supports the atmosphere of the story without slavishly illustrating it. OK so this probably won’t be track on this CD I play most often but I am very glad it is there. I wonder why it was necessary to record the narration and accompaniment separately?—not that you would know this from listening, it is listed as such in the technical detail.

I rather like the fact that a violin playing friend, colleague and arranger of track 3—Jesús Florido is listed as the ‘Style Director’—a kind of language coach for the violin. This illustrates Barton-Pine’s collaborative nature. One final mention for the technical team who have ensured that the 1742 Guarneri del Gesu played throughout the programme sounds magnificent with a 24 bit recording that is full and warm. Cedille is a not-for-profit foundation who seek to promote the finest Chicago-based players and ensembles. Many congratulations to them for supporting artists of the stature of Rachel Barton-Pine and allowing to pursue their goals and letting us hear the results…I am not sure that this disc does not take itself to the very top of the list of her discs to seek out. Even by her own formidable standards the music and her performance of it is of staggering quality. By the pricking of my thumbs a disc-of-the-year this way comes.

Full marks to Cedille for a nice clear good-sized unfussy sans-serif font on simple white paper for the insert booklet.

Guy Rickards
Gramophone, October 2011

An absorbing programme of Iberiana played with skill on a single fiddle

This is Rachel Barton Pine’s 12th CD recording for Çedille…weighty piece (the longest single item is José Serebrier’s Aires de Tango, written specially for her, at a touch over eight minutes), it does contain a wealth of engaging music superbly delivered. There are familiar items, albeit in less-well-known guises, such as Albéniz’s Asturias in a finger-blistering transcription by Pine herself (which almost convinces that this is how Albéniz may have first “heard” the music) or Tarrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra in a fine arrangement by Ruggiero Ricci.

For many, a major delight will be in encountering previously unknown repertoire (there are eight premieres here), such as Roque Cordero’s serious-minded Rapsodia Panameña, Rodrigo’s Capriccio or the pair of idiomatically composed works by Manuel Quiroga who was the dedicatee of Ysaÿe’s single-span Sixth unaccompanied Sonata from Op 27—perhaps the most concentrated item here and which is written in the form of a habañera. There are fun items too, not least in the final track, Alan Ridout’s 1971 Ferdinand the Bull, delightfully rendered by Pine and Héctor Elizondo.

Pine’s gift as arranger are also showcased in her rendition of Piazzólla’s third Etude con Libertango, right from the opening bar. She catches its Latin swing to a nicety and her playing throughout is nothing less than idiomatic. Some pieces here inhabit that shadowy world where the tune but not the provenance is known, such as Jesus Florido’s arrangement of the Romance or Balada Espagñola, Espéjo’s Prélude Ibérique and José White’s Study No 6 (A Secundino Arango). To all Pine brings the same virtuosity and delight in communication. Splendid sound, too, in a close but resonant recording.

V. Vasan, August 2011

Rachel Barton Pine succeeds brilliantly on these pieces for the solo violin…Barton’s assured, solid technique, and strong musicianship carry her through the whole album. The Prélude Ibérique…is full of fire and passion, an absolute joy to hear. In Terra!!…the violinist…plays through it with great poise. Sonata No. 6 shows Barton’s very assured, romantic side…One can hear her appropriately aggressive bow attacks through the high-quality recording, which is not overly bright, but clean enough to hear her precise string crossings. The Piazzolla is simply fabulous…The final work…Ferdinand the Bull, adds a note of whimsy to this hardcore classical gem…Overall, this is an excellent album in terms of musicianship as well as repertoire chosen.

David Vernier, July 2011

If you’ve studied the violin you know that with no other instrument are the technical challenges and “occupational” dangers so numerous, and if you’ve ever performed publicly on the violin, completely solo, you know what “nowhere to hide” truly means. Courage is not a bad attribute to possess if you’re going to do this sort of thing, that is, perform formidably difficult works for solo violin, such as the ones with which Rachel Barton Pine fills this outstanding program.

However, Pine has reached a point where when she plays you don’t notice the mechanics nor do you detect any of the anxious signals of bowing, phrasing, or tempo that betray a less-confident—or less-technically accomplished—artist. In other words, sit back and relax (if you can), and enjoy the work of a real virtuoso who obviously loves her instrument and is absolutely enamored of her chosen repertoire.

Rather than notice the “mechanics” or the details of Pine’s technique (for these works are really mostly about technique and the stylishness of its execution) you marvel at the facility, the sheer sharpness of articulation, the bursts of dramatic intensity (and of course the uncompromised intonation)—and speaking of style, Pine relishes the particular Latin flavors of works such as the two by Manuel Quiroga (the sensual Emigrantes Celtas, the tangy Terra!! Á Nosa!!), the famous guitar piece (arr. by Ruggiero Ricci for violin) Recuerdos de la Alhambra, and the remarkable virtuoso exploration of the tango (commissioned by Pine) by José Serebrier, Aires de Tango.

Every possible element of bowing and fingering technique is on display somewhere—almost everywhere!—among these 14 pieces, several of which are world premieres or are very rarely heard or recorded. Pine is amazing in her ability to dash off runs of double-stops and sweep through near-impossible flourishes of arpeggios while maintaining the structural integrity and melodic flow of the piece at hand. I wasn’t as impressed as some with Pine’s arrangement of Albéniz’s Asturias—the violin’s timbre, especially throughout the passages with repeated upper-register notes, just seems a bit harsh, particularly when compared with the work’s piano or guitar settings. Of course the playing is superb (I love those octave pizzicatos!, and also the ending is delightful), but the music feels like it’s being forced to be sung by an instrument it’s not comfortable with.

I love Pine’s Piazzolla arrangement—a medley she made herself from her study of the composer’s music and playing style of his violinists; however, I’m not a fan of her own introduction to the piece—a “bit of the chicharra [cicada]”, a technique in which the bow is “scrunched” behind the bridge, a very abrasive sound that just doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the piece. This of course is a small thing, and as sure as I write this there will be many listeners who disagree. I was a little unsure of how Pine and narrator Héctor Elizondo would pull off the performance of Alan Ridout’s version of the story Ferdinand the Bull. How would a solo violin accompanying the actor’s reading maintain an engaging, varied, colorful enough accompaniment for nearly 11 minutes? Well, just listen and try not to be enchanted by these two performers—and even with Elizondo’s very characterful reading, the violin nearly steals the show.

The sound throughout brings us in natural presence and perspective to Pine and her Guarneri violin. You many not want to listen to an entire 79 minutes of high-powered solo violin music at one sitting—but you will want to hear all of it, sooner or later. Impressive and essential for lovers of the violin and virtuoso artistry at its finest.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, July 2011

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine is Cedille Records’ biggest-selling artist, and for good reason. She plays with virtuosic flair yet always with refined and cultured style. For instance, her Cedille recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Jose Serebrier and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is among my favorites. On the present disc she essays a selection of music by Spanish, Central American, and South American composers, arranged for solo violin. As we might expect, it’s beautiful, strange, exciting, and always captivating.

On fourteen tracks, Ms. Pine plays the music of composers Isaac Albeniz, Roque Cordero, Cesar Espejo, Manuel Quiroga, Eugene Ysaye, Louis Jorge Gonzalez, Jose White, Francisco Tarrega, Joaquin Rodrigo, Jose Serebrier, Astor Piazzolla, and Alan Rideout. Several of the works are world-première recordings for the arrangements: Albeniz’s Asturias (Leyenda), Cordero’s Rapsodia Panamena, Espejo’s Prelude Ilberique, Gonzalez’s Epitalamio, White’s Etude No. 6, and Serebrier’s Aires de Tango.

Albeniz’s Austurias, arranged by Ms. Pine herself, shows her dexterity on the violin as well as her musical expressiveness. Additionally, she imbues the music with a lusty sensuousness and brawny ruggedness that is quite beguiling. While some of the music on the disc the composers wrote specifically for solo violin and many others they wrote for piano or guitar, it makes no difference; all of it sounds entirely appropriate on the violin as though the composers wrote all of it for the instrument.

The Quiroga piece, Emigrantes Celtas, is especially nostalgic and haunting. Then, his music in Terra!! A Nosa!! sounds positively festive and not a little Scottish. Jose White’s Etude No. 6 is more mainstream than most of the other works on the album and strikes a Romantic note in the program. Tarrega’s familiar Recuerdos de la Alhambra is always welcome, even if Ms. Pine plays it a brisk pace. Serebrier’s Aires de Tango, which the conductor-composer dedicated to Ms. Pine, also comes off felicitously. Finally, I enjoyed the concluding piece, Rideout’s Ferdinand the Bull, with noted actor Hector Elizondo narrating the famous story to Rideout’s music. It makes a sweet and effective ending to the proceedings.

One of my favorite audio engineers, Bill Maylone, recorded Ms. Pine in the Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio, WFMT, Chicago, Illinois, between July 2009 and January 2011. The sound is excellent, the miking set up at an ideal distance to capture the instrument in precise detail, yet with a well-judged air around it, the warm ambience of the acoustic imparting a lovely glow to the violin. This is reach-out-and-touch-it sound that is sure to please any music lover or audiophile. Extensive booklet notes cap off a rewarding package from Cedille Records.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group