Rachel Barton Pine & Matthew Hagle

Friday, November 5, 2021 · 7:30pm

Program included: Beethoven, Dolores White, William Grant Still, Billy Childs

“Striking and charismatic” (The New York Times), violinist Rachel Barton Pine is celebrated as a leading interpreter of great classic and contemporary works.


Sonatina in G major, Op. 100, B 183 - Antonin Dvorák

Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47 “The Bridgetower Sonata”* - Ludwig van Beethoven

Blues Dialogues - Dolores White

Here’s One - William Grant Still

Incident on Larpenteur Avenue** - Billy Childs

Suite for Violin and Piano - William Grant Still

*This piece is more commonly known as the 'Kreutzer' Sonata, following a re-dedication by Beethoven. However, it was originally dedicated to George Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860) a virtuoso violinist of Black descent, whose prodigious talent inspired Beethoven to create this celebrated piece.

**Commissioned and premiered by Rachel Barton Pine

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine Performs Storied Music Perfect for Farley's House of Pianos

By Matt Ambrosio

On Friday, Nov. 5, Farley's House of Pianos' Salon Piano Series featured trailblazing violinist Rachel Barton Pine, whose gift for musical narrative was perfect for the evening's intimate parlor setting. Her playing is fearless yet approachable, and her mastery of diverse technical skills is captivating.

Pine's virtuosity extends beyond performance. The Rachel Barton Pine Foundation has helped provide a greater platform for black composers underrepresented in classical music history. The foundation's compiled collection of over 900 works by black composers serves as a resource so that this music gains more attention. Extending this mission to her concert programming, Pine's Friday concert featured pieces whose stories intertwined with black musicking in some way.

A self-proclaimed “research geek,” Pine provided great supplemental context for the pieces on the program, and their stories made the music all the more gripping. Before performing the second piece on the program, Beethoven's 'Bridgetower' Sonata, Pine detailed the story of its title. Originally dedicated to George Bridgetower, a violinist of Black descent who premiered the work, the piece has long gone by the 'Kreutzer' Sonata, named after a famous violinist who likely never played the piece. Revealing her inner musicologist, Pine went on to describe the stylized violin figurations that were notably written specifically for Bridgetower before demonstrating them in her performance.

Following intermission, Pine performed the solo violin “Blue Dialogues” by Dolores White. A wonderful blues-influenced modernist work with dynamic musical textures, this piece demands versatility and subtlety, and Pine was well up to the task. She displayed great expertise in phrasing and textural coloring as she wove together the work's at times disparate melodic gestures to great rhetorical effect.

An art song treatment of a spiritual, the next piece on the program, William Grant Still's “Here's One,” was originally written for voice, but it translated beautifully to Pine's violin. The violinist said the piece is “almost like a prayer,” and her brilliant rendition was proof of concept. The work is elevating, and Pine infused it with penetrating depth, especially in the harmonious double-stop closing passages.

Perhaps the most powerful moment of the evening was Pine's performance of Billy Childs' “Incident on Larpenteur Avenue.” A tone poem about the killing of Philando Castile, the piece reaches a climax with seven loud melodic strikes depicting the seven gunshots of the horrible incident. With grace and care, Pine and pianist Matthew Hagle's impactful interpretation communicated the work's profundity. While introducing the piece, the violinist offered insight into the work's ominous cyclic return structure: “the piece ends with the same unsettling music with which it began, saying 'it can and will happen again.'”

The evening ended with William Grant Still's Suite for Violin and Piano, a work that Pine clearly cares for deeply and knows well. Each of its three movements was inspired by a different sculpture from the Harlem Renaissance and each has its own characteristic quality, which Pine and Hagle expertly brought out in their interpretation, maneuvering seamlessly from jaunty passages to solemn phrases. Pine shared with the audience that she often plays her recording of the second movement, “Mother and Child,” for her daughter during bedtime, and her performance of it on Friday was absolutely stunning and embracing.

The evening's instruments, Pine's violin and Hagle's piano, themselves had stories to tell. Pine's violin, a 1742 Guarneri, has encountered many greats, including Johannes Brahms. The piano Hagle played, Tim Farley discussed during intermission, is an early twentieth century Chickering piano, which, in comparison to contemporary Steinways, has a soft and creamy treble register that blended smoothly with Pine's Guarneri. Rare is such a special pairing heard in such an intimate setting.

After the performance, Pine graciously fielded questions from the crowd, and the discussion only added to the friendly and congenial parlor-concert fashion of the evening.