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CD Review

Romantic Works for Violin & Orchestra

Rachel Barton Pine, violin
Göttinger Symphonie Orchester/Christoph-Mathias Mueller
Cedille Records CDR90000144
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You probably don't think you need another Mendelssohn concerto in your collection, and you may not think you need the Schumann at all. The Mendelssohn has hundreds of recorded versions, and dozens of them could be considered excellent. The Schumann suffers from the opposite problem. Largely ignored by music lovers and the violinists themselves, good luck finding a dozen versions at all. This could very well be the recording that changes your mind.

In the Mendelssohn, Pine brings her customary freshness and seriousness of purpose to this oft-played warhorse. Like her excellent Brahms recording from the last decade on the same label, the violinist is aided by fine podium support and exceptional sound. For her part, Pine opens the concerto with an almost laser-like tone, but one which retains warmth and beauty. It's frankly a unique sound, and may take you by surprise. The orchestral contribution is weighty and purposeful, and the violinist practically has her instrument singing by mid-movement. It's around this time that you understand the validity of the approach, and also that there's something setting this disc apart from the crowd. Mueller's orchestra plays very well, and is clearly of one mind with Pine. A lovely second movement andante impresses with its forward motion and refusal to drag or linger too long. The result is entirely convincing, Of the nearly dozen versions I own of this concerto, only Heifetz/Munch comes close in terms of timing. It's a refreshing take, and very special. A really exceptional finale, featuring a terrific rhythmic profile and stunning violin playing, caps off a unique look at this staple of the repertoire.

But wait, there's more! According to the included notes, Pine and Mueller have been working together on the concerto since 2009, and they share a passion for it together. None of that would matter if the results weren't so eye opening. Pine's take on the Schumann is to my ears the best on the market. The work is a lesser masterpiece at best, but that's not an excuse for not making it sound good. Kremer on Teldec was to this point my favorite, but the rather dreary and foursquare orchestral part was no better there. Kremer was also a touch mannered in a work that needs no further issues. Rachel Barton Pine and conductor Mueller really make the work their own. The first movement is launched excitingly with a real attention to dynamics. Pine's entrance sounds like an event, just as thrilling as the Brahms would be. Mueller brings tremendous conviction and cogency to the accompaniments. As a result, the entire work is elevated. I loved this. The two Beethoven romances are as wonderful as the rest of the disc, and generous to boot. A clear winner, and a joy to hear.

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman