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Classical 101

Rachel Barton Pine And Friends Shine in New Mozart Recording

Rachel Barton Pine is good friends with Mozart's violin concertos. In fact, the concert violinist knows them so well that, for her, each one has a truly unique personality. "I think Number Three is the friendliest," Pine said in a recent phone interview. "Number Four is definitely more 'on stage' - it's not people playing for each other, it's people playing for an audience. And Number Five is incredibly adventurous." These are just a few of the insights Pine, 40, has gathered during the last few years as she performed all of Mozart's violin concertos and the Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364 around the world and prepared to record them with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and conductor Sir Neville Marriner. That recording, recently released on the Avie label, marks a point of culmination for Pine's lifelong friendship with Mozart's concertos and a deepening of friendships with her collaborators. Listen to Classical 101 throughout the day today, Mozart's birthday, to hear selections from Pine's Mozart recording and also the recording debut of violist Matthew Lipman. Mozart's Characters Pine had learned and first performed Mozart's violin concertos as a teenager. But performing all the concertos in a single marathon concert in 2011 gave her fresh and nuanced insights into the works. "It really helped me bring my interpretations to a new level, because I had to really individually define each concerto. It couldn't just be nice Mozart, but I had to figure out what really makes Number Three unique and different from Number Four and Number Five and so forth," Pine said. To begin with, Pine refined her approach to playing Mozart's music by tapping into the drama that Mozart the great opera composer poured into his instrumental music. "When you're going through the solo part of one of Mozart's violin concertos, you can almost see a plot happening with different characters and constantly changing moods," Pine said. "One phrase is playful, then the next phrase is a little bit melodramatic, then you have a very calm phrase, then you have a little surprising, kind of intense phase. It's just almost like you’re telling a story." Defining the character of each concerto, for Pine, meant getting to know the subtleties of each work's personality. For instance, the "friendly" Concerto No. 3 in G Major, Pine discovered, is that way because friendliness is in its genes. "The more I read about it in the course of writing my own program notes, I discovered that Mozart had reworked the main theme of the first movement of the G Major concerto from an earlier opera that had a pastoral theme, and so there really is this gentleness to it. It's not supposed to be as, sort of, on edge as [Concertos] Four and Five, for example." Pine said. "There's a warmth there." That warmth is partly why Pine calls Mozart's Third Violin Concerto "the companion of my heart." But given the work's gentleness, as Pine was composing her own cadenzas for all of Mozart's violin concertos, she aimed to highlight other dimensions of the drama in the first movement of Concerto No. 3. "Of all the cadenzas I wrote for all the concertos, that particular one is my favorite," Pine said. "In fact, I probably made it a bit more dramatic even than that for [Concerto] Number Five, which was not an accident. Because Number Three is so gentle I thought, well, maybe I'll try to mix is up a bit in the cadenza and take things a little father, whereas Number Five is already so dramatic I didn't want overdo it with a cadenza that was too adventurous."

"A Dream Come True" While getting to know Mozart's concertos as a kid, Pine grew up listening to recordings of Mozart's music by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields an Neville Marriner and enjoying their performances on the soundtrack to the film Amadeus. She called it "a dream come true" to collaborate with artists whose work had inspired her so many years earlier, and whose dedication to excellence continues to inspire her. "It was really a dream come true that, when the day came for me to record the Mozart violin concertos, those were the musicians that I ended up doing it with," Pine said. "It was so cool – in the recording sessions: they would play something that sounded gorgeous, and I was totally satisfied, and then they would want to do it one more time because they knew they could do it even better. And that level of commitment to making a recording as good as it can possibly be as just so wonderful."

The Big Debut While Pine's collaboration with Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields marks the beginning of their artistic relationship, her Mozart recording also marks the recording debut of violist Matthew Lipman and embodies a deepening of Pine's professional relationship with Lipman. Pine's Rachel Elizabeth Barton (REB) Foundation, devoted to helping gifted young musicians in challenging financial circumstances pursue their musical dreams, had supported Lipman's musical aspirations years ago by paying his airfare to several international competitions, all of which he won. Pine later performed one of Mozart's duos for violin and viola with Lipman and felt an instant musical kinship. "I just felt like our approaches were so similar that, that chamber music thing that no matter how much you rehearse, you can’t force it – you’re either on the same page or you’re not – and we just clicked. Whatever it was, our Mozart really meshed well," Pine said. They meshed so well that she invited Lipman to make his recording debut on Pine's Mozart recording, as viola soloist in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364. "It was a wonderful chance to introduce the world to his brilliant playing," Pine said.

Listen to Classical 101 throughout the day today, Mozart's birthday, to hear selections from Pine's Mozart recording and also the recording debut of violist Matthew Lipman.