The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend guest violinist Rachel Barton Pine solos with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in an all-Russian program | October 17, 2019

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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend the acclaimed Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine (below) makes her debut with the Madison Symphony Orchestra playing Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto in D minor.

The concert by the orchestra (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) opens with Prokofiev’s Suite from Lieutenant Kijé and concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9.

Performances will be held in Overture Hall, 201 State St., on Friday night, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday night, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon, Oct. 20, at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall. Tickets are $19-$95. See below for details.

“There will be great discoveries in our all-Russian concert, starting with the MSO debut of virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton Pine playing the Khachaturian Violin Concerto, a big, bold and beautiful work in its MSO premiere,” said MSO music director and conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson). Lieutenant Kijé is sure to delight you with its wonderful melodies and infectious rhythms. Shostakovich has become a favorite with our audiences, and his ninth symphony is delightfully upbeat.”

Lieutenant Kijé is the fictional protagonist of an anecdote about the reign of Emperor Paul I of Russia. The story was used as the basis of a novella by Yury Tynyanov published in 1928 and filmed in 1934, with music by Sergei Prokofiev (below). The plot is a satire on bureaucracy and is often parodied in fictional works making fun of bureaucracies, most famously in the form of the M*A*S*H television episode “Tuttle,” featuring a fictional captain of similar provenance. (You can hear the popular “Troika” episode in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Many of the themes in Violin Concerto in D minor are evocative of the native Armenia of Aram Khachaturian (below). Although the folk melodies aren’t played explicitly, one can hear the Armenian roots through the oriental essence of the scales and the rhythmic range of the featured dances. The piece won the Stalin Prize in 1941, becoming one of Khachaturian’s favorites.

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 is entirely unlike his other symphonies. In fact, it completely disregards the expectations for its programmatic elements. Shostakovich’s prior two symphonies are thematically tied to the ongoing war, therefore the public presumed that the ninth symphony would be a grand culmination to Stalin and mark the end of World War II. Instead, the composer (below) produced a short, neo-classical work that generated an abundance of controversy.

ABOUT RACHEL BARTON PINE

In both art and life, violinist Rachel Barton Pine (below) – who has performed in Madison before with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra — has an extraordinary ability to connect with people.

Celebrated as a leading interpreter of great classic and contemporary works, her performances combine her innate gift for emotional communication and her scholarly fascination with historical research. She plays with passion and conviction, thrilling audiences worldwide with her dazzling technique, lustrous tone, and infectious joy in music-making.

A prolific recording artist, she has also championed the works of female composers and African-American composers.

Pine was also recently named the recipient of the Cedille Records Musical Partnership Award for her Rachel Barton Pine Foundation. The Foundation was recognized as an organization that has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the classical music community in Chicago. Cedille noted the Foundation’s “support of the Chicago musical community’s most valuable asset — its musicians and composers.”

Pine was presented with the award by U.S Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose son, Jim Ginsburg, founded Cedille Records. Pine began her Foundation in 2001 to provide instruments and instruction to children who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

You can read the Artist Story online about how Rachel Barton Pine overcame severe injuries and her own personal adversity to achieve her goals: https://madisonsymphony.org/19-20-artist-story-rachel-barton-pine-overcomes-adversity/

CONCERT, TICKET AND EVENT DETAILS

The lobby opens 90 minutes prior to each concert.

One hour before each performance, retired MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience. It is free to ticket holders.

The MSO recommends that concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and so they can experience the Prelude Discussion.

Program notes for the concerts are available online: http://bit.ly/msooct19programnotes.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.


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9 Comments »

  1. Here’ a “critic” (really more of a cheerleader) who doesn’t understand that the audience gets to “vote” with their feet. Writing a review of this concert, he noted (it’s not worth naming him)”The only disappointment of the evening was to sense that Overture Hall was not as packed as it should have been… .”

    That’s the second concert of the season where this has happened and with a glorious, superstar solist to boot. Plus, as noted here in August, Overture offered special price reductions (for the first 3 concert series of the year; this was the second). Memo to the powers that be at the MSO: once you lose the audience, it’s hard to get them back. Alternatively, look at the wonderful success that the Milwaukee Symphony has had with its much younger and more distinguished leader. Do what they did: conduct a search; listen to lots of contenders and then pick the best of the lot.

    Meanwhile, the Madison maestro interviewed on NBC for this concert had all the memory qualities of Joe Biden (they are about the same age).

    The MSO needs change at the top.

    Comment by fflambeau — October 19, 2019 @ 10:56 pm

  2. Here’s some good, and critical commentary about the MSO performance. From the observant Matt Ambrosio (a professionally trained muscian) at the Cap Times, who called the MSO’s performance, “somewhat precarious start….” It was not due to the soloist, he indictes.

    More critical words from Ambrosio who used terms throughout his commentary like “unrehearsed”, “scattered” and “unsteadiness”: “First on the concert’s program was Sergei Prokofiev’s “Suite from ‘Lieutenant Kijé,’” a collection of tunes from the composer’s first film score for a film by the same title. It is a lighthearted suite, characterized by animated “oom-pah” dance rhythms, yet the MSO fell short of inciting any such movement in the audience, sounding a bit scattered and unrehearsed, save the fourth — and most well-known — movement.

    Unfortunately, the orchestra’s unsteadiness continued into the first movement of Aram Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto. It is a demanding work, full of tricky rhythms and irregular phrasing that would challenge any orchestra. The MSO struggled to keep pace with the soloist, which was most noticeable during extended syncopated patterns.

    That said, Pine’s performance was a joy… .”

    Ouch! Thanks for the honest insights and maybe the powers that be at MSO take steps to rid us of what has become a problem. I’ve been saying for years that the maestro should never have been retained so long and given a virtually unlimited contract. Give a new person a max of 6 years with maybe 4-6 years of extensions if their work has been outstanding. After that, a nice dinner and a watch and goodbye. That should have happened long ago with the incumbent.

    Comment by fflambeau — October 19, 2019 @ 8:12 pm

  3. Ms. Barton-Pine is NOT making her MADISON debut – she’s making her MSO debut. She has played often with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, as was noted in the column.

    Comment by bratschespeilerin — October 17, 2019 @ 1:17 pm

  4. Some oddities about this concert:

    1) Rachel Barton Pine was born in Chicago and made her debut with the Chicago Sympony Orchestra at the age of 10. For someone as distinguished as she is (38 albums at least; winner of many prizes) isn’t it odd that someone who lives so close to Madison is making her debut here at the age of 45?

    2) Katchaturian is wonderful. Great choice for the violin concerto but what about his melodic Spartacus Adagio? It’s only 9 minutes long and an audience hit everywhere. It could either have been added on to the program or the Prokofiev being taken off and the entire ballet suite being played (they are about the same length).

    Comment by fflambeau — October 17, 2019 @ 1:49 am

    • Lieutenant Kijé was originally written for a Russian film: it is light-weight.

      Katchaturian’s magnificent Spartacus Ballet Suite #2 is about the same length (20 minutes or so) and so much better! It has the knock-out love music in the Adagio and many wonderful dances. One of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written and it would be a natural compliment to the violin concerto.

      Here’s a link to a nice performance:

      Comment by fflambeau — October 17, 2019 @ 2:32 am

      • Another version but this one of for piano and orchestra. The pianist is Boris Berezovsky.

        Comment by fflambeau — October 17, 2019 @ 3:29 am


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