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Featured violinist for MSO concert urges classical music novicesto listen

Featured violinist for MSO concert urges classical music novicesto listen

October 13, 2005|by KATE COLEMAN

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine said she has 80 concertos in her fingers.

She'll be playing one of them - Antonin Dvorak's Violin Concerto - with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

"It's definitely one of my favorites," Pine said from Chicago in a phone interview last week. "It's so interactive with the orchestra."

She likes that the concerto is not just a vehicle for showing off.

The 30-year-old soloist said making music with the orchestra is a very powerful experience - an experience she wants to share with more than perennial concertgoers.

"Classical music can be enjoyed by everyone," Pine said, and although she acknowledged that not everybody will like everything, it's worth a try, she said.


"Dumbing down" the music is not necessary, Pine said. She said it speaks to the human spirit and expresses the full spectrum of human emotions.

But misconceptions about classical music have to be overcome, Pine said. It's not just the sleepy, pretty stuff heard in a hotel lobby or a dentist's office. She wants to eliminate apprehension about attending concerts. You don't have to dress up. You don't have to sit on your hands. There is not a "sacred silence" between movements of a work. She doesn't mind if people clap.

"I think it's the most gratifying thing when the audience applauds," she said. "They're thanking me."

Pine said performers need to be less rigid. "We have to be missionaries for the art form," she said.

She wants audiences to grow - not for a selfish motive of having future audiences. Her goal in playing is to have an emotional connection with the people listening to the music.

Her connection with the violin began when she was 3 years old. Some "older girls in beautiful dresses" were playing violin at church. She admired the outfits, but it was the sound that attracted her.

Although she had no clue about what pursuing a career would involve, she knew by age 5 that she wanted to be a professional musician.

"I wasn't someone who plays the violin," Pine recalled. "I was a violinist. It was my whole identity."

She signed her name "Rachel, violinist."

At the suggestion of the principal of the parochial elementary school she attended, Pine was home-schooled from third grade on. The decision saved her social life, she said.

She was 10 when she made her earliest appearance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A few years later, she was the youngest person and first American to win a gold medal at the 1992 Quadrennial J.S. Bach International Competition in Leipzig, Germany, according to biographical information.

By age 14, she had become the primary source of financial support for her family. "My dad was one of those hard-luck kind of guys who couldn't hold on to a job," she said. The young violinist bore responsibility for the family's mortgage and groceries. It was a burden that had an impact on the jobs she took, she said. While her violin dreams were of being a classical soloist, Pine played weddings.

She credits her early teachers with keeping her grounded.

Her advice for young music students can be summed up in two words: concentration and consistency. Putting in hours of practice is not enough. The practice must be focused and with a goal in mind.

It worked for Pine. She has performed with prestigious ensembles and worked with renowned conductors in the United States and around the world.

She has 11 recordings - including her most recent release, "Scottish Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra,"which includes her collaboration with Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser.

Pine often steps out of the classical music box. She's played her own arrangement of the national anthem at Chicago Bulls playoff games, she has been an instructor at Mark O'Connor's Fiddle Camp every summer since 1997, she has jammed with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and an August 2004 entry in her blog reported: "I just did a gig in a bar!"

Her "Storming the Citadel" album, recorded in 1997, includes covers of heavy metal and grunge rock tunes.

The MSO's weekend concerts will open the orchestra's 24th season of MasterWorks performances - Music Director Elizabeth Schulze's seventh with the orchestra. The season's repertoire is a standard but important repertoire, she said. It includes some of her personal favorites.

It's exciting that the MSO will be joined by young "stars of the future," Schulze said.

For the MSO, the future will begin with Pine.

If you go ...

WHAT: MasterWorks I: "A Delightful Season Opener" with violinist Rachel Barton Pine

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

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