Stories » Rachel Barton Pine - Bel Canto: Paganini on New Classical Tracks

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Rachel Barton Pine - Bel Canto: Paganini on New Classical Tracks

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New Classical Tracks is a Syndicated Feature airing Nationally on Classical 24 & Statewide on Minnesota Public Radio. Listen to Julie Amacher's Feature with Rachel Barton Pine.

READ SOME OF THE TRANSCRIPT -  "Well, I first started listening to the caprices when I was six and with an LP of Itzhak Perlman that my mom had bought for me and it was my bedtime bribe," Rachel Barton Pine recalls. "On nights when I really didn't want to settle down and go to sleep. my mom would say, 'If you'll just be a good girl and close your eyes I'll put on your Paganini record.'

"And you know, by the time I was 10, I got my first Paganini Caprice assigned by my teachers and just started learning one at a time till I'd learned them all."

All that marathon training paid off. Recently, Rachel Barton Pine released all of the Paganini Caprices on a new recording she calls, Bel Canto, which means "beautiful singing."

As a teenager, Rachel won the Paganini Caprice Prize for her performance of the Caprice Number 5, the infamous bouncing-bow Caprice. "Just being able to play all those notes really fast with the left hand is the big challenge," Rachel says. "But in fact, that's the least of the struggles of that piece. It's all about the bow stroke which is three down bows followed by an up bow over and over again, a particular kind of ricochet.


"And actually so many of the caprices have unusual bowings &mash; you know, the backwards bow stroke in number 11 and the triple stops on down bows and up bows in number nine - the list goes on. And so I actually used a transitional bow for this recording, which is what you might call an early modern style of bow. It's Perham Bucco wood, which is what our bows are made out of today, and it's curved inwards, as opposed to the old baroque bows which are curved outwards. But it's lighter and springier and just a little clearer than the modern bows which are, you know, heftier and have more bombast and so that really allowed me to not only have a little bit easier time with some of these bow strokes - not that they're easy. But you know, it just made everything pop a little more but it also gave the tone quality more of a facility and a sweetness and delicacy at times that you know more closely matched to my conception, which is sort of paying homage to the fact that Paganini was a contemporary of the great bel canto opera composers like Rossini and Verdi and Donizetti and Bellini and so often you hear that caprices played with a later Romantic, more muscular, fiery type of sound and while there's certainly intensity, you know, Paganini comes from an earlier era and I wanted to make sure to capture more of that flavor in my interpretations."