Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: Rachel Barton Pine - Violin Lullabies

It’s the rare artist who might be somewhat excited to hear her listeners softly exclaiming, “This album isViolin Lullabies, and stems from her family’s unique daily tradition of collectively enjoying a classical lullaby together.
putting me to sleep,” yet, for violin virtuoso, Rachel Barton Pine, those words are music to her ears when it comes to her latest recording. Of course, it just so happens that Pine’s new album is aptly entitled,

“My first exposure to music wasn’t on the radio or at a concert, it was the sound of my mother’s voice as she sang a lullaby to me, just as her mother had sung to her, and her mother before her,” says Rachel.

Pine is attempting to further that legacy by sharing these classical lullabies with her daughter, Sylvia, aided by her husband, Greg. It’s a tradition that holds something warm and spiritual feeling for the artist.

“’There is something truly universal about the sound and feel of a lullaby melody, with a tempo and cadence derived from the way we intuitively rock our infants,” says Rachel. “Hearing these beautiful little songs takes us back to pleasant childhood memories. Lullabies are also the perfect building blocks to help children explore and create their own musical interests,” she adds.’”

And while Violin Lullabies is just that, a collection of twenty-eight classic lullabies, this recording’s appeal stems far beyond the nursery, inviting classical connoisseurs and those with a less familiar palette to the table as well. The key to making the album work stems from the stunning delivery by Pines on violin and her accompanist, Matthew Hagle, on piano. Hagle provides sound support while Pines’ violin notes swirl up and beyond, conjuring emotion and soothing the savage beast.

Pine has scoured the musical pantheon, searching out one hundred and fifty plus lullabies to share with her family before settling on this set list for the album. Offering up short, accessible interpretations of each song, the artist delivers music from many well known composers. Among them, listeners will find familiar strains from classic composers such as Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky, and Richard Strauss. Yet Pine is not content to represent only the well-known and she showcases “works by little or unknown composers whose lullabies Rachel found irresistible.” In fact, five of those compositions see their world premiere on this recording.

But what ultimately makes this album so great are the performances offered up by Pine and Hagle. Hagle’s piano is almost haunting, his keys tentative as they work through the various arrangements while Pine’s violin, all the tracks performed on the “ex Soldat, a violin made by Joseph Guarneri “del Gesu” in 1742, which was hand-picked by Brahms himself for 19th century violin superstar Marie Soldat,” soars for the stratosphere. Its uncanny the emotive tones that Pine coaxes from her instrument, taking what many may perceive to be simple songs, as lullabies are often thought, and offering them a sense of transcendence on tracks as diverse as Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess, Act I, Summertime,” and Ravel’s “Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Faure.”

That’s the tale of the tape here. Rachel Barton Pine, with stellar assistance from Matthew Hagle, showcases an expansive array of diversity across the realm of lullabies while maintaining a sense of integrity and sophistication within these compositions. Violin Lullabies highlights lullabies from far and wide, providing listeners with an experience that is soothing, tranquil, and invigorating, all in one. It’s truly an experience that will appeal to young and old alike.

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