Opinion

Wineke: 1742 violin, accomplished artist, enthusiastic crowd highlight MSO concert

MADISON, Wis. - Rachel Barton Pine, one of the world's most accomplished violinists, brought her artistry back to Madison this weekend to highlight an all-Russian program for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

She is no stranger to the city, having performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in 2007 and 2014, but this was her first performance with the MSO. Barton Pine was enthusiastically received with a standing audience and repeated cheers.

Her personal story is as interesting as her performance. She grew up in a poor family in Chicago. At age 3, she was enraptured by music in the United Church of Christ congregation her family attended, and she played with the Chicago String Ensemble at age 7 and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 10. By the time she was a teenager, she was helping support her family.

She also overcame incredible hardships. In 1995, she was caught in the door of a Chicago Metra train and dragged 200 feet, losing one leg and mangling another.

Today when she performs, she drives a motorized scooter to the stage and hops on a piano bench while her husband, Greg Pine, gets on the scooter and drives it away. When her performance is finished, the process is reversed.

Also, she plays a 277-year-old Guarneri violin and is a big fan of heavy metal rock music.

Finally, her 8-year-old daughter, Sylvia, is also here and spends her days at the Madison Children's Museum. Sylvia also plays the violin.

Back to the concert: Barton Pine played Aram Khachhaturian's Violin Concerto, a mostly bright and happy piece that contrasts with the heavy and often dreary style of much Russian music.

Even seated on the bench, she plays with exuberant style, ending each work with a flourish of raised bow.

The other works on the weekend concert include Sergei Prokofiev's Suite From Lieutenant Kije and Dmitri Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony.

They are both beautiful compositions and were played admirably by John DeMain's orchestra. During the suite I was initially puzzled by principal trumpet player John Aley, who left the orchestra several times. I wondered if he were ill but finally — I'm not too bright sometimes — figured out that he was playing off-stage to add distance to the piece.

The suite was commissioned as a score for a Russian film about a fictitious warrior.

 

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