Violinist, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performs the concerto
Nothing can stop Rachel Barton Pine from making music with her violin. She started school at age 3, performed solo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 10, and won the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in 1992 a few months before she turned 18. Her concerts have taken her all over the world and her playing has been featured in 39 albums.
Now that the pandemic has loosened its grip a bit, Pine is back on the road, and this weekend she’ll be in town performing Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
I caught up with her on the phone recently on her way to a solo recital in Lincoln, Neb.
“I started the year with a recording of Shostakovich’s first violin concert,” said Pine. “And it’s accompanied by a new concerto by Earl Maneein which is inspired by heavy metal music. In March, I played Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins with my daughter Sylvia. It was very special! Right after the concert in Vancouver, I’ll fly to Vienna to record with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop, and in September I’ll be back in Vienna to serve on the jury for the Fritz Kreisler International Violin Competition.
These are some of the highlights she has going on this season. She is known for being able to play a different violin concerto every week, and although she hasn’t counted, she thinks she has played around 100 different concertos in her career.
Korngold’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra is one of Pine’s favourites. He wrote it in 1946 in a style that has beautiful expansive melodies. Because he made a name for himself writing music for movies, including an Oscar for the score of “Anthony Adverse” (1936) and another for “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938), many people assumed that his film music leaked into the concerto.
“I love this concerto,” Pine said. “A lot of composers like Korngold came from Europe to America and wrote film scores to pay the bills. It’s a fun way to express yourself artistically. Some people have dismissed Korngold’s music, saying it sounds like in Hollywood, but they have it backwards. Hollywood sounds like Korngold. People have argued that Korngold took bits and pieces from his movie scores and recycled them into his Violin Concerto. I think he has wrote the concerto first, but he didn’t have much success, so he took some of the good bits from the concerto and used them in the film scores.
Korngold’s Violin Concerto has steadily grown in popularity and is now considered a standard in the orchestral repertoire. To connect more with music, Pine encourages her students to watch movies that have Korngold’s music.
“It’s enlightening to understand the scene or the moment in a plot where Korngold used these melodies,” Pine explained. “It gives you an idea of the character and meaning of the melodies. I like the secondary theme of the first movement, which is a tender scene between spouses in one of the films. There is an intimacy, a deep love that they have shared for so many years. It’s a wonderful theme.
Pine will be seated when she performs due to a serious accident she suffered many years ago.
“I’ve been non-ambulatory since 2019,” Pine said. “I was supposed to undergo operations that would have put me back on my feet. It was planned for spring 2020, but hospitals have been affected by the pandemic. It was disappointing and difficult, but I prefer to look at the positive side. My family is healthy and we are doing well.
She said Itzhak Perlman, a renowned violinist who contracted polio at age 4 and has been using crutches ever since, gave her “a lot of advice on what to do and how to cope with it. to go out”.
“I’m very grateful to him,” she said.
For this weekend’s performances, Salvador Brotons will conduct all the pieces on the program, including Alexander Glazunov’s Fifth Symphony. It ends with a flourish that has helped make it one of Glazunov’s most popular works.
The concert will begin with “Rip Van Winkle Overture” by George Whitefield Chadwick. This piece was inspired by the Washington Irving story and a popular game version. He won a composition competition when Chadwick studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. This helped solidify his career after returning to the United States. He taught at the New England Conservatory and became its director in 1897. As his music is rarely performed today, it will be a treat to hear this short one-movement work. Don’t fall asleep!