Classical violinist Rachel Barton Pine has her own YouTube channel. Her website is perhaps the most inviting and user friendly that you’ll find from anyone in music. She connects on other levels by writing about music, and she does a podcast called Violin Adventures that illustrates her own curious mind. It’s also a forum for her to answer questions sent in via email.
“I think accessibility is important these days,” she said recently by telephone, but really proving her point about being accessible by even agreeing to do a telephone interview to preview a master class she will hold June 28 at Birch Creek.
“Classical musicians should make it clear they’re not off on a pedestal somewhere, that we’re welcoming and are excited to welcome people and introduce them to what I think is the best kind of music there is,” she said.
But, while she has been an almost lifelong advocate for classical music, she will quickly tell you that classical music is not all there is. She, in fact, has a passion for thrash metal. Check out her metal persona in her band Earthen Grave (earthengrave.com).
“There are a lot more people out there than you think that love both classical and metal,” she said. “The two go hand in hand. A lot of metal has been inspired by classical, in fact. The energy and the power that classical has has been an inspiration for a lot of rock and metal musicians.”
Her website includes a link to a piece she wrote for Decibel magazine on the top five most metal classical pieces. The link was dead when we spoke, and Rachel said she would have to post her original Word document in place of the link, but she was gracious enough to name those five works:
• Mahler’s 6th, “often described as the first nihilist piece of classical music, or any kind of music,” she said.
• 2. The slow (second) movement of Beethoven’s 7th, “which to my mind is very closely related to the doom-metal movement,” she said.
• Stravinsky, Rite of Spring
• Bartok String Quartet No. 4: “Great headbanging in every movement.”
• Foundry, a cacophonous early 20th century work by Soviet composer Alexander Mosolov.
“An important thing to realize when advocating for classical music, it’s not all this light pretty, sleepy stuff that you hear in a dentist’s waiting room or hotel lobby,” Rachel said “There is so much more to classical music, works that are very intense and exciting.”
As she speaks these words, she is struck by the irony of her latest recording, Violin Lullabies, which was released by Cedille Records in April, her 15th release on the hometown Chicago label.
While much – but not all – of Violin Lullabies is light and sweet, it is also the violinist’s most personal recording.
“It actually didn’t start out as something I intended to record commercially,” she said. “I was just looking for lullabies composed for the violin for my own child. After collecting more than 150 of them and realizing how many great composers had written them and how beautiful so many of them were, I was very surprised that no one has ever made an album of violin lullabies before. It seemed like such an obvious thing to do. That’s how it came to be.”
In the short time since it’s release, she’s already heard from parents who have been playing the recording for their children at bedtime.
“I guess it has been effective, so that’s pretty darn cool,” she said, but, ever the advocate for classical music, adds, “It doesn’t have to be just for babies. The composers didn’t necessarily write them for that purpose. I definitely hope that some of the people who buy it for their babies will go, ‘Wow, this is good stuff,’ and maybe it will get them to check out some music by those same composers.”
Barton Pine’s violin master class was originally to have taken place on June 27, and she was going to relax for a bit, but her schedule changed and now the class will take place June 28.
“I was going to take a couple days and spend it in that idyllic setting, but now I have to be in New York for a photo shoot for my next record (Mendelssohn and Schumann violin concertos with the Göttinger Symphonie Orchester), so I’ll be dashing in and dashing out,” she said.
Her connection to the Birch Creek comes through Program Director Ricardo Castenada.
“Ricardo and I grew up together as members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago in the early ’90s,” Rachel said. “It’s good to see him up there mentoring young people and doing such good things. I was really interested in seeing what [Birch Creek] is all about.”
“Rachel is one of my favorite people in the music business,” Castenada said. “When she offered to do a master class for us at Birch Creek I jumped at the offer. She is the perfect role model for our students. She is one of the most talented musicians I know. Her curiosity and her commitment to so many styles and music periods makes her the ideal person to inspire our students.”
He said they met when Barton Pine was concertmaster of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and he was playing principal oboe.
“Incidentally, she has been the only concertmaster to give me cookies decorated with the letter ‘A’ for giving the tuning note to the orchestra; I don’t know if she remembers that,” he said. “Over the years we have continued to share the stage as she has appeared as soloist with the different orchestras with which I perform. It is great to be welcoming an artist of Rachel’s stature and reputation to Birch Creek. We are all very excited.”
For more information about Birch Creek visit birchcreek.org or call 920.868.3763.
For more information about Rachel Barton Pine, visit rachelbartonpine.com.