Brahms and Joachim Violin Concertos
Brahms Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, paired with the masterpiece that inspired it, Joachim’s “Hungarian” Concerto – GRAMMY nominated!
Brahms Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, paired with the masterpiece that inspired it, Joachim’s “Hungarian” Concerto – GRAMMY nominated!
Joachim: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 11 “In the Hungarian Style”
I. Allegro un poco maestoso
II. Romanze: Andante
III. Finale alla Zingara: Allegro con spirito
Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 (cadenza by Joseph Joachim)
I. Allegro non troppo
Cadenza by Joseph Joachim-end
Alex Klein, solo oboe
III. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace
Bonus Track: Cadenza by Rachel Barton Pine
CEDILLE RECORDS: CDR 90000 068
BRAHMS AND JOACHIM VIOLIN CONCERTOS
RACHEL BARTON PINE, VIOLIN
CARLOS KALMAR, CONDUCTOR
CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
To my teachers, Roland and Almita Vamos and Werner Scholz with love and gratitude.
This recording is made possible by a generous grant from the Sage Foundation
Recorded: July 2 & 3, 2002 in Orchestra Hall, Chicago
Producer: James Ginsburg
Engineers: Christopher Willis and Bill Maylone
Design: Melanie Germond & Pete Goldlust
Photos of Rachel Barton Pine: Andrew Eccles
Violin: “ex-Soldat” Guarneri del Gesu, Cremona, 1742
Luthier (violin technician): Whitney Osterud
Rachel Barton Pine wishes to extend special thanks to:
· Henry Fogel, for your continued support and friendship
· All of my friends in the Chicago Symphony, for another joyful collaboration
· My management and publicity team: everyone at ICM Artists, Ltd.; everyone at Kirshbaum Demler & Associates; and Rachelle Schlosser
· The Fazenda Ipiranga, Guaranesia/MG, Brasil (makers of premium estate-coffee “Blue de Brasil”™), for your dedication to supporting many young artists like myself
· Mary Lou Falcone, for your invaluable advice and assistance
· All of those who helped arrange for the use of the “ex-Soldat” Guarneri del Gesu
· Whitney Osterud, for your patience and dedication to perfection
· Matthew Hagle, my piano collaborator, for many hours of practice together
· Charles Cullen, Mary Wyly, Susan Fagan, and the rest of the staff of the Newberry Library, Chicago, for your wonderful collections, expertise, and generosity
· Robert A. Skelton, author of Joseph Joachim’s Hungarian Concerto in D Minor, Opus 11; and Marsha Jones Wederquist, author of The Brahms, Schumann, and Joachim Violin Concerti: An Analysis of Relationships; for your informative and inspiring work
· Bob Clifford, for your timely generosity
· Fred Spector, my dear audience of one
· Nadine Gürke, for your tireless work as my German interpreter
· Terry Barton, Friederike Erler, Wolfgang Erler, Brian Hodes, Didier Milleriot, Miller Peters, Ari Vilhalmjsson, and David Yonan for your generous assistance
· And especially Jamey and Melissa Fadim and Greg, Michael, and Joan Pine, for your unwavering faith and encouragement – you mean the world to me
I have been fascinated with the Brahms Concerto since my earliest violin lessons. I began studying it when I was 14, and it rapidly became a mainstay of my repertoire. It was with the Brahms Concerto that I won several of my international prizes and made many of my debuts in Europe and America. It remains one of the most fulfilling works I perform.
I have been intrigued by Joachim’s “Hungarian” Concerto for many years. When I began to study it intensely it seemed a very natural fit, enhanced by two of my professors’ strong connections to this music. One of my Chicago teachers, Roland Vamos, shares Joachim’s Hungarian Jewish heritage. As a youngster, Dr. Vamos frequently accompanied his father to hear gypsy music in the cabarets of New York’s Hungarian section. He even supported himself through college by playing gypsy tunes as a strolling violinist. His stylistic knowledge was an invaluable resource. My teacher in Berlin, Werner Scholz, was a student of Gustav Havemann, who studied with Joachim. I feel fortunate to have gained knowledge about both the Joachim and Brahms Concertos from one so close to the original source. My study of the Brahms was augmented also by reading Joachim’s essay in his Violinschule in which he laid out how he felt the Brahms concerto should be played.
The long friendship between Brahms and Joachim enhanced their music and their lives. Friendship has also enhanced the performances on this recording. When I debuted with the Chicago Symphony at age ten, I gushed in a televised interview, “the Chicago Symphony isn’t just any old orchestra. It’s a great big, super-duper orchestra!” Over the eighteen years and many solo performances that followed, I came to know most members of the orchestra personally. The coaches, mentors, and teachers of my early teens have become chamber music partners, colleagues, and friends. Our history of working together adds a special dimension to the music whenever we collaborate.
I first met Maestro Carlos Kalmar shortly before this recording when we collaborated on the Joachim “Hungarian” Concerto in concerts with Chicago’s Grant Park Orchestra. He is an amazing and inspiring musician with a warm personality. I will always be grateful for his musicianship, humor, and energy throughout our two-day recording marathon. He became a kindred musical spirit and a dear friend.
I am very excited to be able to share with you these two wonderful concertos.
Artistic Quality 10/10 Sound Quality
“This is not only one of the best sounding violin and orchestra recordings ever made, but the entire concept is so smart, so well executed, and so thoughtfully planned that even if it were not so musically stupendous it still would be worthy of your attention… this is one of those rare productions in which absolutely everything goes right… Astounding!” Read the entire review: www.classicstoday.com
“With Barton’s serious musical statement in the first movement, her alternation of stentorian rhetoric with wistful filigree in the second, and her sparkling off-the-string brilliance in the third, hers must be the version of choice for those who care about the [Joachim Concerto]… Rachel Barton has holistically realized the [Brahms Concerto’s] potential: She’s muscular in the angular passages and whisperingly intimate in the lyrical ones – and makes transitions from one musical personality to the other without jarring the listener. The performance’s hormones remain perfectly in balance, creating an overwhelming impression of integrity… Remaining faithful to the movement’s thematic material and integrating violinistic display thoroughly into these motives, [Barton’s cadenza] recommends itself equally on the basis of purely musical and of purely instrumental values.
With the best (and what seems destined to remain the best) complete version of Joachim’s concerto, with a monumental performance of the Brahms concerto, with an intriguing new cadenza for that concerto, with the strong connections between the concertos themselves and between the repertoire and the violin upon which Barton’s performed it, and finally with stunning recorded sound, Cedille’s two CDs deserve an urgent recommendation for their extraordinary merit and equally extraordinary appeal. It’s clear that Rachel Barton and everyone at Cedille cares deeply about what they do.”
Critics’ Choice – Discs of the Year
“I’ve long hoped to hear the Joachim, a magnificent but taxing work, played with this degree of assurance and musical understanding.”
“Outstanding playing from the soloist in an intriguing coupling of Brahms and Joachim… Rachel Barton is a magnetically imaginative artist, spontaneously expressive in her rubato, who makes every phrase sound fresh. Technically, too, she shows complete mastery… In the Joachim Concerto – even longer than the Brahms – Barton is just as compelling, fiery in the bravura passages, tenderly expressive in the many lyrical moments, with the Hungarian flavour idiomatically brought out in her shaping of phrases and pointing of rhythm.”
“The Joachim Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, “In the Hungarian Style,” is a gem of a piece, and the young violinist Rachel Barton is a gem of a player… Brahms and Joachim share some stylistic traits that are obvious even in the first few measures of the “Hungarian” concerto. But there’s also a marvelous Dvorakesque quality to Joachim’s melodies and orchestrations…Barton’s way with the Brahms is sturdy and elegant in all the right places.”
“Barton is so splendidly on top of the [Joachim Concerto’s] formidable technical difficulties, so deeply into its tuneful romantic sentiment, that you have to love the concerto along with her… Barton turns in a performance [of the Brahms Concerto] of comparable expressive feeling and musical poise (she also contributes her own long, convincing cadenza for the first movement, separately tracked so you can sub it for Joachim’s, and vice versa)… a genuine discovery, made all the more attractive by the excellent recording.”
A fascinating pairing of two complementary works … Joachim’s concerto is fairly bursting with great tunes, with echoes of Beethoven, and, somewhat jarringly, pre-echoes of Brahms’ own concerto to come. Soloist Rachel Barton is at her finest here, phrasing with tonal sensitivity and subtle expression. Throughout, Barton communicates the melodic charm and lyrical impetus of this music with great feeling. The rousing finale goes like the wind in her agile fingers, with an exhilarating pedal-to-the-metal coda.
Competition is much stiffer in the more familiar Brahms concerto but Barton’s spacious reading is just as impressive and can more than hold its own with her most celebrated rivals. Performing on the “ex-Soldat” Guarneri, which has connections to Brahms’ inner circle, Barton is alive to the concerto’s restless drama as well as the nostalgic lyricism, playing with a pure refined glow. Under Kalmar’s direction, the CSO is supple and responsive, and the refined recording has great presence, with the soloist naturally balanced. Barton contributes intelligent notes and provides a bonus with her own clever cadenza for the Brahms concerto, which can be programmed in place of the standard Joachim. Offered at two discs for the price of one, these excellent, historically significant performances are a bargain as well.
Sun-Sentinel (South Florida)
While Joachim essentially looks backward to the late-Classical models, Brahms charts entirely new grounds in form and substance. What a difference two decades makes. Particularly in the two finales, Barton makes them appear to be two sides of the same coin. Her performances in these works are so memorable… Barton brings a breath of freshness as soon as she enters. From there, making connections between the two pieces seems relatively easy. Barton’s essential musicianship hardly alters between the two, revealing a similar sense of phrasing and characteristic bite in the sound during the fast virtuosic passages balanced by true melodic freedom in slower, lyrical portions.
(out of 4)
“In a lengthy essay, Barton traces the close musical partnership between Brahms and Joachim, the violinist who introduced his friend’s violin concerto. She proves to be a compelling advocate for both concertos. Barton produces a glowing, lustrous tone and plays with unfailing taste. She receives optimal support from Carlos Kalmar and the Chicago Symphony in this well-engineered release.”
Courier Post (New Jersey)
“Without wanting to sound sexist, if I hadn’t known [Rachel Barton] was a woman, I might have guessed otherwise, for her tone is dark and firm (she plays the ex-Soldat Guarneri del Gesu) and her musicianship authoritative. This is great in the Brahms where, accompanied by Carlos Kalmar and the Chicago Symphony, she gives a big-boned, majestic, triumphant performance. The concerto by Joseph Joachim (who played the Brahms premiere in 1879) is given authentic gypsy flavor by Barton… it’s instructive to have them together on discs in such persuasive performances.”
San Francisco Examiner
“Barton evinces clarity, rhythmic life and a serene sense of lyrical line. The Brahms is noble and the Joachim, fresher to the ears, is a charmer. The written notes are by Barton, who is clearly as intelligent a commentator as she is a virtuoso.”
The Arizona Republic
“These are attractive recordings, thoughtful in concept as well as execution… [Kalmar and Barton] make a persuasive case for Joachim’s concerto, emphasizing its sophisticated Hungarian flavor and fluid writing for solo violin. Barton’s detailed liner notes are illuminating, and she combines effortless virtuosity and understated lyricism in both concertos.”
(out of 5)
THE JOACHIM: “This may be the finest recording of this important violin concerto that ever will be made.”
THE BRAHMS: “This has become my favorite recording of this concerto. … Barton’s cadenza on a separate track is a masterpiece.”
Two of the most demanding violin concertos, an imaginative coupling … Joachim’s concerto is a dazzling, dramatic and one of the longest concertos for the instrument. It has been called by some the most difficult work in the violinists’ repertory. It is surprising that major violinists of the past haven’t championed it … Rachel Barton’s performances of both works are elegant, technically secure and beautiful in tone. Needless to say, the Chicago Symphony offers superb support under Carlos Kalmar … Cedille is to be commended for this issue, which offers splendid performances of two major concertos, two CDs for the price of one. Highly Recommended!
Joachim takes first billing with … Barton’s dazzling entry, full of double stopping and bringing home the full passion behind the music. She’s clearly done her research on this work, and applies a flawless technique. … It’s very interesting to hear the Brahms in this particular context, and as a bonus Rachel Barton ends the first movement with her own showy cadenza as an alternative to Joachim’s. … The finale zips along with plenty of verve, Brahms’s Hungarian connections all the more telling off the back of the Joachim piece. This is a fascinating juxtaposition of works by two friends.
Our blindfolded audience would surely take Joseph Joachim’s seldom heard Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, “In the Hungarian Style,” for a long-lost concerto by Brahms, and certainly enjoy it as such. … A big, deep-thinking and spacious first movement gives way to a pretty, tender, slow movement and Gypsy-style finale that has some wildness to it. Barton gives the work a sturdy performance, vibrant in tone and vibrato, technically assured and confidently phrased. … Her co-conspirators are no less than the Chicago Symphony and Carlos Kalmer, who give her resonant, sensitive support, warmly yet clearly recorded in Orchestra Hall.
Orange County Register
At first thought you may ask yourself, “Why another recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto?” Then, you listen to Rachel Barton’s passionate interpretation of one of the romantic era’s greatest compositions for violin and orchestra, and the answer is obvious: a performance as good as this deserves to be preserved for posterity.
Daily Herald (Illinois)
“Barton brings a performance of great passion and virtuosity … This recording, featuring a Chicago soloist, orchestra and record label, has received widespread praise throughout the world, and rightfully so.”
CNN Money – Annual list of top recordings
“Barton’s Brahms interpretation is both energetic and elegant. … Barton’s playing is refreshingly individual and thus unique. It is clear that she doesn’t want to belong to schools or follow trends but seeks a voice of her own. The less well-known Joachim concerto offers a good opportunity to demonstrate her individual approach; its spirited and temperamental performance is most promising.”
“Barton’s enthusiasm for these concertos is unmistakable … Her performances are gorgeous, almost reverential.”
Extraordinary in every way! The Brahms Violin Concerto is one of the most over recorded works in the violin repertoire. It is hard to imagine another recording could have anything to add. But this is exactly what Rachel Barton, Carlos Kalmar, and the Chicago Symphony have done. Barton brings an extremely personal musical voice to the Brahms. In the over 30 recordings of it I own, there is none like it. However, rather than wondering why she does not approach the Brahms like others, I quickly found myself wondering why others have not interpreted it like she does. From her choice of tempi to her phrasing, her concept of the Brahms is grand, aristocratic and expansive. Barton’s playing grabs you from her first note and does not let go. Her tone is huge and her coloring and timing exquisite. She gives us two cadenzas, the Joachim (to fit the concept of the album) and her own (very interesting and enjoyable). Chicago Symphony oboist Alex Klein plays a glorious solo to start the second movement and Barton gives the movement probably the most heavenly performance I have ever heard. Her pacing of the third movement is perfect and the flair and excitement she brings is unmatched. While I had known of the Joachim “Hungarian” Concerto, I had never actually heard it. This is an incredible work full of catchy melodies that left me humming for hours after hearing it. Had Joachim not been so successful as a violinist and teacher, he surely would have left a profound legacy as a composer. His orchestration is masterful. The technical challenges facing the soloist in the Brahms pale in comparison to those of the Joachim. Barton’s performances demonstrate that her technique is limitless and her mastery of the violin unsurpassed. Every passage sounds effortless and the musical line is never lost. This is a wonderful concerto, brilliantly performed, that deserves (and will hopefully receive) much wider recognition. After a series of very fine, but somewhat niche recordings, this album establishes Barton as solidly in the mainstream. I look forward to hearing her interpretation of other “standard” violin repertoire. If this CD is any indication, she will have a long career at the very top of her profession. –(Amazon.com customer)
A landmark recording of the two greatest violin concerti. History is such a fickle judge. Joachim was a truly great musician, whose powers of orchestration were only exceeded in his lifetime time by Wagner, and whose violin skills were the equal of Liszt’s piano mastery. This concerto is arguably the most unjustly neglected violin masterpiece of recent history. With the sensitive musical support of Kalmar and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rachel Barton has created a performance of the work which must surely be the standard against which any future performance is judged. From the wonderful opening symphonic tutti in a minor key with Hungarian raised fourth, which gives no hint of the supremacy of the soloist to come, the first movement leads into an extraordinary intimate and dreamlike violin entry, right in the middle register of the instrument. This has the effect of reinforcing the initial impression that the work is conceived as symphonic and the violin is integrally partnered with the orchestra. Gradually, the violin establishes itself as the prime instrument, but never fighting against the larger body. The soloist is given sustained difficulties which are never shallow displays, rather the direct statement of Joachim’s economy of thought to perfectly ornament the structure of this masterwork. From the purely hedonistic point of view, this is glorious music, sweet and beautiful, full of themes as attractive and memorable as ever you will hear. The second movement is especially beautiful, particularly the second part of the slow movement theme, and the finale is vibrant with drama and deceptive simplicity. The more I hear this, the more I realize this is the Opus Magnus of the greatest violinist composer of recent times. Brahms’ violin concerto is a product of the meeting of minds between Joachim and Brahms, an excellent choice to pair with the Hungarian concerto, This performance of the Brahms is a grand expression indeed, but it is the relationships and differences between the Brahms and the Joachim concerti that are so beautifully illustrated here. The Brahms is “a struggle between violin and orchestra in which the violin wins”; the Joachim is “a striving together between the orchestra and the violin in which the music wins.” What phenomenal technique and musicianship Ms Barton displays here. Let us hope that her contribution to the recorded legacy continues to dazzle us. This album should be in every musician’s collection, and would please every listener who loves the sweet sound of the violin. –
Lovely, indulgent sound, fabulous Joachim concerto! I love this disc. Buy it and enjoy, you will continue to gain pleasure from the Joachim with every hearing. –Passionate “eclectic” collector (Amazon.com customer)