Bruch, Sarasate, Mackenzie, McEwen & Pine/Fraser

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bruch,Mackenzie,McEwen & Pine/Fraser,Sarasate
LABELS: Cedille
ALBUM TITLE: Scottish Fantasies for Violin and Orchestra
WORKS: Pibroch Suite; Prince Charlie Rhapsody
PERFORMER: Rachel Barton Pine, Alasdair Fraser (violin), Scottish CO/Alexander Platt
CATALOGUE NO: CDR 90000 083
This collection of pieces inspired by Scots folk music brings several neglected works to attention. Least neglected, of course, is Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, though it’s hardly much heard in concert, and Rachel Barton Pine from Chicago (whose recent Brahms and Joachim concertos I admired) plays it with great warmth and authority. Still, David Oistrakh’s classic account with Jascha Horenstein, though over 40 years old, is hard to beat. Oistrakh is fleeter than Barton Pine in the scherzo, and the recording still sounds well.

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As we learn in the pleasant video documentary on the CD-ROM part of Disc 2, Barton Pine has traced the 18th-century fiddle tunes on which Bruch and the others based their works, and studied the present-day Scots folk-fiddle tradition (represented by Alasdair Fraser) to restore the music to its folk roots. Fraser and she share a short two-violin Medley on Scots tunes, with her own orchestration. Mackenzie’s Pibroch Suite sounds fuller-blooded here than in Malcolm Stewart’s version for Hyperion. The Sarasate has never before been recorded with orchestra, but the real discovery is JB McEwen’s Prince Charlie rhapsody (1915). Its violin-piano form has been recorded by Olivier Charlier and Geoffrey Tozer for Chandos (reviewed April 2001), but Barton Pine unveils a previously unknown orchestral version from 1941. Her technique is very impressive (hear her flawless double octaves and left-hand pizzicati in the devilish Sarasate), but the strength of her commitment is what really makes this a rather special set. Calum MacDonald