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Rachel Barton Pine plays National Gallery / Washington Post

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Violinists often take on a movement or two of a Bach sonata or partita to show off their chops. Unaccompanied, the violinist is out there alone to roll out harmonies and contrapuntal textures that you'd think would be impossible with a bow on a single stringed instrument. Usually, what is most impressive about such efforts is the athleticism and agility of the violinist. Who hasn't wondered at the technique involved in a performance of the famous "Chaconne"?

At the National Gallery on Sunday, violinist Rachel Barton Pine aimed the spotlight not at her own dazzling technique but rather at the music in as astonishing and joyful a performance of all three sonatas and three partitas as I've ever heard. There was none of the rhythmic distortion, the little extra time that so many violinists steal to bridge the bow across all four strings and is excused as a stylistic nicety; no posturing at the climax of a series of impossibly fast ornamental turns and no exaggerated phrasing or tempos in the graceful slower dance movements - just elegant ideas realized elegantly.

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