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Scottish Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra with Rachel Pine (2 CDs)

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From the Artist

It all started in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 2001, the Wildwood Festival invited me to give a recital built on the theme of "Scotland." Works like Bruch's Scottish Fantasy and Beethoven's Variations on National Airs came immediately to mind, but I wasn't sure that there would be enough classical repertoire for a complete program. Searching for hidden gems at Chicago's Newberry Library, I quickly found enough music to fill at least 10 recitals. The challenge was choosing what not to play.

Wonderful books by David Johnson and John Purser not only discussed classical music, but exposed me to the connections between Scotland's classical and folk music. It was fascinating to learn about the influence of classical violin playing on traditional fiddling in the 18th century. In turn, Scottish folk music has inspired numerous classical compositions throughout the last three centuries.

19th century Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate's great affinity for Scotland and its folk music is well documented. Bruch dedicated his Scottish Fantasy to Sarasate. At Sarasate's request, Mackenzie wrote his Pibroch Suite. Sarasate himself wrote a piece called Scottish Airs. Each of these pieces utilizes traditional Scottish folk tunes -- a wonderful theme for a recording project.

As the project evolved, it was suggested that I collaborate with the renowned Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser on a short twin fiddle piece. Alasdair and I first met in 2003, when he headlined Chicago's Celtic Fest. I'll never forget playing a melody from the Prince Charlie Rhapsody and hearing Alasdair pick up his violin and improvise a beautiful descant. Our approach to music was so similar; I was thrilled by the possibility of working together.

Alasdair's contribution to this album goes far beyond our twin fiddle medley. He helped me identify each folk tune in the classical pieces. He acted as a "dialect coach," showing me how the original versions would be played by an authentic fiddler and identifying spots in the music where the limitations of 19th century notation failed to capture an effect accurately. By incorporating as much traditional Scottish flavor as I could, I have tried to bring out the roots of these sophisticated symphonic works.

Given Sarasate's familiarity with Scottish fiddling, I suspect that he also may have added "gaelicisms" to these pieces when he performed them. This raises an intriguing question: If the Scottish Fantasy had been composed in the 21st century, would it be considered a "crossover" fiddle concerto rather than a German classical violin concerto?

I hope that this recording expands your appreciation of Scottish folk music and that you enjoy the glorious works for violin and orchestra that bring these beautiful fiddle tunes into the realm of high art.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Max Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46
  2. Pablo de Sarasate: Airs ecossais, Op. 34

Disc: 2

  1. Sir Alexander Mackenzie: Pibroch Suite, Op. 42
  2. Sir John Blackwood McEwen: Scottish Rhapsody ("Prince Charlie")
  3. Rachel Barton Pine.Alasdair Fraser: Medley of Scots Tunes
  4. Video Documentary: "The Making of Scottish Fantasies"


Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 28, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Cedille Records
  • ASIN: B0009VI5GG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,364 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
A very pleasant, often lively, evocative and enjoyable set of CDs. The video documentary included in the second CD tells about how Barton Pine studied Celtic/Scottish music before making her recording, and the extra work shows in her ability to render the Bruch as a far lovelier recording than any other violinst has. She finds the tensions, the delicacies and the warmth of this piece. Add to that, the Sarasate is also beautifully done -- sorry it was so short a piece. On the second CD, the Mackenzie and the McEwen, not heard that often, are also really well done. This isn't fiddling -- you get true classical versions of the folk tunes hidden in these selections. Because of that, Barton Pine brings out nuances that were never before explored, and she does it by showing you just how good, how rich, this music can be. The final piece, Barton Pine's arrangement of scottish tunes, is also enjoyable --a fun way to end an album that is both relaxing and delightful. Highly recommended.
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This double CD is a real treasure, and a showcase of both the musicianship and scholarship. Rachel Barton Pine has researched both the composers and the history of the performances of the works she has recorded. She has produced the most attractive booklet which goes with the CDs, in which she teaches the subject in an effective, friendly and captivating way. Particularly interesting is her documentation of Sarasate's familiarity with Scottish fiddling. Rachel Barton Pine has also a very attractive and informative web site on which one can find information about this project. Just "Google" her and her site comes right up. I think that her web site is great. One can find the schedule of her concerts and all sorts of interesting educational things. I only wish that all great performers would do the same.

Rachel Barton Pine is a virtuoso, but her musicianship shines and it makes her virtuosity just a tool. She is so much more than the flying fingers. In a winning combination with Maestro Alexander Platt, an immensely talented conductor, they have produced a classic which will be listened to for years to come. There may never be a comparable Scottish Fantasy and Pibroch Suite performance. Mr. Platt leaves no note unexpressed. As opposed to the lesser conductors, who sometimes overpower the soloist, or who seek their own limelight at the expense of the soloist, Mr. Platt achieves a perfect union of the soloist and the orchestra, just as it should be. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is also at its best.

These records' main value is in the interpretation, which is insightful and elegant. There are no over-interpretations, however, in which the soloist or orchestra would push their own detailed view of this music.
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The sheer brilliance of Pine's playing in the final movement of the Bruch Fantasy is worth paying for. But on the whole the Scottish Fantasy falls short of perfection, with her playing too light in many sections and lacking the Romantic essence which is part of Max Bruch. The orchestra fails too in its support of her own search for a deep and fufilling interpretation. I prefer the playing of Salvatore Accardo with the London Symphony under Colin Davis. There is a richness and a depth about this rendition which surpasses even the technical aptitude of Pine. Having said that, the combination of the Bruch with the other pieces makes this CD an acquisition well worth having in your classical collection.
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Format: Audio CD
This 2-CD set consists of various Scottish fantasies performed by violinist Rachel Pine and "fiddler" Alasdair Fraser. I have only listened to the Bruch, but that has given me more than enough upon which to comment:

The trouble with this recording is that it could make one not want to listen to any others, which would be a shame because the Heifetz recordings deserve their status as definitive. (I have in mind the nicely engineered 1961 stereo version with Sir Malcolm Sargent. Bruch: Concerto for violin in Gm; Scottish Fantasy) Indeed, I never thought I would hear a performance to challenge Heifetz's; in one sense this recording does just that: it is now my co-favorite with Heifetz's; but in another way it cannot challenge Heifetz's because the respective approaches operate as if in different dimensions. Both find the heart and soul of the music but in almost opposite ways: Heifetz's is fire-and-ice cool but simultaneously intense (doesn't sound possible; but that's the miracle of Heifetz); Pine`s is more relaxed and overtly soulful. Pine summons as much virtuosity as Heifetz when appropriate, including his fearless tempi. There was one spot in the first movement where Pine had less intensity than Heifetz and less than I would have liked, but she proves later on that that was an artistic choice, as she had plenty of fire to breathe when needed. (I am sorry to bring up the Heifetz so much, but I know of no other recording against which it is worth comparing.
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