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Rachel and the Violin / IPR chats with Rachel Barton Pine

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Rachel Barton Pine says for her, one instrument is enough.

"I'm interested in everything that has to do with the violin and nothing that doesn't," Pine says. "The only thing I wanted to do was play things that were like the violin, whether it was a medieval ancestor of the violin, a cousin of the violin like the viola d'amore, the electric violin."

IPR - Classical Sprouts host Kate Botello writes….When she was 10 years old and already practicing seven hours a day, Pine says even her grandmother's efforts to teach her to crochet resulted in, literally, more violins. "As soon as I figured out the mathematical principles of how shapes are created with the yarn, I invented a pattern for a crocheted violin and that's all I ever made after that."

On her new Cedille Records album: Violin Concertos by Black Composers Through the Centuries, Pine plays 20th-century American composer Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Jonathon Heyward.

The new release marks the 25th anniversary of Pine’s pioneering 1997 Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries on Cedille.

Released on September 9, 2022, in addition to Pine’s 2022 recording of the Price concerto, the new album includes reissues of three performances from the earlier program, which Pine recorded with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras’ Encore Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Hege: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 5, No. 2; José White Lafitte’s Violin Concerto in F-sharp minor; and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Romance in G major for Violin and Orchestra (Cedille Records CDR 90000 214).

The 25th anniversary edition substitutes Price’s concerto, recorded in January 2022, for J.J.O., Le Chevalier de Meude-Monpas’ Concerto No. 1 in D major. Recent research indicates the 18th-century French composer probably was not of African descent, Pine writes in her introductory essay, in which she discusses the genesis of the original project and the initiatives it spawned.

The album booklet includes extensive program notes by Mark Clague, who wrote the liner notes for the original recording. Clague is professor of musicology and associate dean at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance in Ann Arbor.

Life-Changing Album

“Sometimes an album can change your life,” Pine writes, citing Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Cedille Records CDR 90000 035) as a personal example. 

That project, she says, “opened my eyes to the lack of awareness of and access to the repertoire and history of Black composers,” while generating “an outpouring of requests” for more information about the composers and where to obtain their music.

Subsequently, the violinist’s Rachel Barton Pine Foundation created its Music by Black Composers (MBC) initiative in 2001 to encourage awareness of, access to, and programming of the music of Black classical composers, which Pine calls “a primary focus of my research and advocacy efforts for over 20 years.”

MBC has collected more than 900 works by 450-plus Black composers from the 18th–21st centuries. Among many other activities, MBC publishes educational materials and offers numerous resources including free, public directories of more than 150 historic composers and over 300 living ones.

Rachel Barton Pine plays this violin, Giuseppe Guarnerius' "ex-Soldat."