Scottish Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra
Works for violin and orchestra based on Scottish fiddle tunes – includes Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and a duet with fiddler Alasdair Fraser
Works for violin and orchestra based on Scottish fiddle tunes – includes Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and a duet with fiddler Alasdair Fraser
Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46
Sarasate: Airs ecossaise, Op. 34
Mackenzie: Pibroch Suite, Op. 42
McEwen: Scottish Rhapsody “Prince Charlie”
Pine/Fraser: Medley of Scots Tunes
Video Documentary: “The Making of Scottish Fantasies”
CEDILLE RECORDS: CDR 90000 083
SCOTTISH FANTASIES FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA
RACHEL BARTON PINE, VIOLIN
ALASDAIR FRASER, FIDDLE
ALEXANDER PLATT, CONDUCTOR
SCOTTISH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
This album is dedicated to the memory of Sam Sanders, beloved pianist and mentor, who once shared with me that Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy was his favorite piece in the violin literature. I think of him and miss him every time I play it.
Recorded: May 20-22, 2004 in Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
Producer: James Ginsburg
Engineers: Bill Maylone and Philip Hobbs
Graphic Design: Melanie Germond and Pete Goldlust
Cover Photos: Kilchurn Castle and surrounding hills beside Loch Awe ©Stone
Photo of Rachel Barton Pine: J. Henry Fair
Rachel Barton Pine’s violin: “ex-Soldat” Guarneri del Gesu, Cremona, 1742
Alasdair Fraser’s violin: Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 1708
Luthier (violin technician): Whitney Osterud
Produced by Peachtoad Productions, www.peachtoad.com
Director: Tristan Cook
Camera: Conor Dooley
Multimedia authoring by John Sweeney, OnDemand Interactive
Video ©2005 Rachel Barton Pine
Rachel Barton Pine would especially like to thank the following:
John and Bar Purser
the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
the Waukesha Sympony Orchestra
Brendan McKinney and Chief O’Neill’s Pub in Chicago
Sandy Bell’s pub in Edinburgh
the People’s Music School in Chicago
The Illinois Saint Andrew Society
the staff of the Newberry Library
the staff of the Scottish Music Information Centre
the staff of the music library at the University of Glasgow
Joan and Michael Pine
Almita and Roland Vamos
and everyone at Kirshbaum Demler & Associates, Inc.
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.
Artistic Quality 10/10 Sound Quality
“Everything about this release by violinist Rachel Barton Pine is exceptional, from the selection of couplings to the performances themselves… In sum, this collaboration between Pine, Fraser, Platt, and the SCO is a triumph on all counts, a model of what a themed release ought to be, and it’s all captured in demonstration-quality sound by Cedille’s engineers. Without a doubt, this is one of the smartest and most purely lovable releases of the year.”Read the entire review: www.classicstoday.com
“Heifetz set a very high standard in [the Bruch Scottish Fantasy], and so did the young Michael Rabin and Kyung-Wha Chung, but neither brought to it the sheer excitement that Pine’s version generates… Pine’s exceptional performance should breathe new life into the piece even for those who think that Heifetz has spoken the first, the second, and the last words on the subject. Most urgently recommended. Scots, wha hae!”
“Rachel Barton Pine really may be the most charismatic, the most virtuosic, and the most compelling American violinist of her generation. Her recordings from Handel through Brahms have been sweet-toned, strong-willed, and deeply affecting and with this two-disc set called Scottish Fantasies, Pine has once again turned in a completely convincing recording. Her performance of Bruch’s very well-known “Scottish Fantasy” is warm-hearted and delightfully nostalgic. Her performance of Sarasate’s fairly well-known “Airs ecossais” is superbly played and incredibly impressive. Her performances of Mackenzie’s nearly unknown “Pibiroch Suite” and McEwen’s previously unrecorded “Scottish Rhapsody Prince Charlie” are superlatively played and wonderfully touching. And her performance of a duet with Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser is twice as well played and absolutely irresistible.”
All Music Guide
“I have not been this enthusiastic about a violinist since my high school days when my musically knowledgeable uncle slipped me a clutch of dreadful sounding pirate LPs recorded by David Oistrakh when he was at the pinnacle of his prime. In this case, however, the sound is stunning, Pine has technique to burn, both she and her conductor have an uncanny ability to get to the idiomatic heart of the music, and the choice of repertory is revelatory.”
“From the moment Pine steals quietly in during the introduction to the Scottish Fantasy you know that this is going to be worlds away from the Heifetz, Oistrakh and Perlman classics. Pine sounds completely uninterested in macho displays of well-upholstered tone but prefers to play the work as the relatively small voice of the wandering poet, with a ravishing, Ferras-like, jeweled purity… Pine’s sublimely musical playing makes [the McEwen] sound like a neglected masterpiece, while her own Medley of Scots Tunes ensures the disc goes out on an exhilarating high… This is another sure-fire winner from Pine.”
“Rachel Barton Pine from Chicago (whose recent Brahms and Joachim concertos I admired) plays [Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy] with great warmth and authority… Her technique is very impressive (hear her flawless double octaves and left-hand pizzicati in the devilish Sarasate), but the strength of her commitment is what really makes this a rather special set.”
BBC Music Magazine
“If you are among those people who are devoted to the violin and a follower of the young virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine then you will be delighted with her new two CD album… Pine takes each piece and gives it an authentic Scottish sound, and the result is something you may never have heard before… The entrance of the solo violin grabs the attention instantly; her brilliantly fresh approach to the [Bruch] pays off handsomely… You could be forgiven for thinking that there is a genuine highland fiddler sitting on Ms Pine’s shoulder, the [Sarasate] is performed with dazzling virtuosity… Mackenzie’s “Pibroch Suite” [is] a really fascinating work again of Scottish origin and beautifully performed by Rachel Barton Pine. Do not be surprised if you imagine that you can actually smell the heather… [Pine and Fraser] gel together to produce a work of such hair raising excitement as if they had been playing this type of music all their lives. The work’s whiskey fumed explosive finale will carry you off on a cloud until finally you find yourself in a world of Scottish Magic from which you may not wish to return.”
“Like Pine’s previous efforts, this is an unusually thoughtful and thought-provoking release, the excellent performances augmented by Pine’s thorough program notes.”
“Rachel Barton Pine should earn a medal not only for bringing to light these wonderful works saturated with Scottish folk songs, or for having played them for a hopefully large listening audience. Her ambition and the meticulousness with which she has conducted her thorough study of source materials accompanies the intensity of violin playing which really turns these recordings into a small sensation… It is the penetration of the material by means of technical brilliance and deep insight into the compositions presented in logically phrased great arcs, but also in the detail work with intricate, marked execution of the arcs… Pine never places her virtuosity in the foreground, rather, melts with the outstanding Scottish Chamber Orchestra to exactly that oneness which leads musical interpretation to perfection… Two whimsical discs with the best music, interpreted in the best way. Recommended.”
“Violinist Rachel Barton Pine continues her string of superb recordings for the Cedille label… Pine’s sterling virtuosity and personality-plus playing provide consistent pleasure.”
“The second disc closes with a Medley of Scots Tunes which has Pine and Fraser playing together, two different yet completely compatible and sympathetic voices. This all-too-short collaboration finishes with a couple of exhilarating reels. They are the highlight, and perhaps the whole point, of this wonderful release.”
The Absolute Sound
“Scottish Fantasies is an engaging collection of rhapsodies for violin and orchestra performed by one of our favorite ladies in the world of classical music, Rachel Barton Pine… Together as performers, Pine and Fraser bring down the house with the last piece as a rousing finale. The Spaniard Pablo de Sarasate is heard in this program in his Airs écossaises (Scottish Airs), a medley of six traditional tunes that stretches violin pyrotechnics to their limit. Rachel Barton Pine relishes the challenges of this short virtuoso piece, as fiendishly difficult to play as it is a joy to hear… As Pine plays [Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy], it’s almost too dreamily sentimental for words – and I love it! The finale, based on the patriotic tune “Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled” is given a rousing treatment, in which the violinist takes Bruch’s redoubtable triple stops in her stride. Smashing!”
Atlanta Audio Society
Artistry 10/ Sound 10/ Overall Impression 10
“The moving American violinist Rachel Barton Pine places Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy in a context previously given little consideration… Pine secured the support of the renowned Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, who not only identified the underlying melodies but also introduced the violinist to the traditional manner of playing, which gave her rendition of the Bruch Fantasy an uncommonly fresh, authentic “Scottish flavor”.”
This double CD is a real treasure, and a showcase of both 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 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. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is also at its best. These records’ main value is in the interpretation, which is insightful and elegant. Sarasate’s Airs écossaise is a totally charming piece. The Medley of Scots Tunes, by Rachel Barton Pine and Alasdair Fraser, a master Scottish fiddler, is an event. I admit to listening to it consecutively eight times, and would have listened to it more times, but was afraid of a total addiction. The great art of fiddling, the artists’ dreams about their countries of origin, pictures of beautiful Scotland, and the musical finesse and musicianship are all the impressions you will come out with after listening to these great recordings. – Vera Kolb Gregory (Amazon.com customer)
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 violinist 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, 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, Pine’s arrangement of Scottish tunes, is also enjoyable –a fun way to end an album that is both relaxing and delightful. Highly recommended. – Mccerner (Amazon.com customer)
Wow! The sound! The musicianship! This woman is gifted beyond her contemporaries! Put this one in the CD player of your car, and glide along on the current of pure melody! – old lady / new violin (I-Tunes customer)