Masterclass: Rachel Barton Pine on Mendelssohn Violin Concerto

Rachel Barton Pine 2790 JPEG credit Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

In our April 2017 Masterclass feature, US violinist Rachel Barton Pine shows why the first movement is not as easy as often assumed

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The Bruch and the Mendelssohn are the first two major Romantic concertos that most violinists learn, often after a Mozart and a Haydn, and before Saint-Saëns no.3, or Wieniawski no.2. There’s a tradition of recording them together, but the more I’ve got to know them, the less I have understood why. 

Stylistically, the Bruch is rooted in a mid-Romantic sound world, with expressive slides, warmth and richness, whereas the Mendelssohn straddles the late Classical and early Romantic. They are quite different, and they come with very different challenges.

We think of the Mendelssohn as one of the ‘easier’ concertos, because it doesn’t demand as much stamina or technical virtuosity as the Tchaikovsky or other ‘more difficult’ works. But for a professional, it is extremely challenging: as with any popular piece, you have to make it feel fresh to an audience that has already heard it a million times. Not only that, but you can spend a lifetime trying to capture the character, the sound, the phrases and exactly what you are trying to say in each moment.

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