THE STRAD RECOMMENDS
The Strad Issue: July 2017
Description: Terrific solo Paganini holds its own in a competitive catalogue
Musicians: Rachel Barton Pine (violin)
Composer: Paganini, Pine
Catalogue Number: AVIE AV2374 (2 CDs)
Sound is crucial in Paganini, especially if you call your album ‘Bel Canto Paganini’. My first reaction on listening to Rachel Barton Pine’s outstanding package was ‘nice gutty sound’, so I investigated her implements for these sessions. Reading her booklet note, it clearly matters to her that she is playing the ‘Soldat’ 1742 Guarneri ‘del Gesù’, from the same maker and year as Paganini’s ‘Cannon’, and you can hear it is in tip-top shape. She uses a transitional bow, an early Tourte, and her strings are Vision Titanium Solo, ‘wound on an advanced synthetic core’. My own prejudices favour the Italianate sonority of Salvatore Accardo or Massimo Quarta, but I happily give room to the Caprices of Perlman, Papavrami, Ricci, Renardy and Kawaciuk, and less happily to Rabin. Pine makes a terrific sound that is all her own: firm, focused, beautifully equalised – G-string tone is full but not fulsome. Harmonics sound wonderful and the violinistic gymnastics are mostly superb, trills, glissandos, difficult intervals, left-hand pizzicato (in no.24). She plays all repeats – I have never before heard no.4 take eleven minutes – yet never seems robotic, as Rabin can. Criticisms are slight: some over-premeditated staccato, a very few tuning questions – no.8 still bothers me – and she almost falls over herself in the second variation of no.24. Sometimes the very last note of a piece sounds dodgy, as in the first thing she plays, the Paisiello variations. Her own composition, on New Zealand’s national anthem, is fun. Will any of her interpretations linger in the mind, like Kawaciuk’s Caprice no.6? Time will tell.