Gone are the days when a violinist would happily explore the instrument’s vast repertory using the same instrument and playing in the same style. Some players may simply restrict their repertoire, but Rachel Barton Pine’s answer is to achieve the necessary versatility of style and technique. So, following a fine recording of concertos by Brahms and Joachim (8/03), she now, with similarly enterprising programming, places familiar music by Bach alongside three notable earlier works for unaccompanied violin.
The recording, admirably realistic but slightly clinical, puts Barton Pine under close scrutiny and shows her as a most accomplished Baroque violinist, fully the equal of the foremost specialists. Her fine tone is capable of sounding expressive without reliance on vibrato. There are occasional moments of uncomfortable intonation but these seem to be because of the way she tempers certain intervals, thirds especially. In general the playing is remarkably clean, pure and stylish; I particularly admired her chord playing in the Westhoff, a densely polyphonic piece that’s made to sound entirely poised and natural.
In Bach, she doesn’t show quite the same expressive force as Rachel Podger nor the grandeur of Sigiswald Kuijken (these players are both recorded in larger, more resonant acoustics). But throughout the recital she demonstrates an acute rhythmic sense, allowing flexibility while retaining the character of all the dance movements. And there’s a highly developed feeling for musical form; the confident way she leads us through to the climactic moments of the two long variation pieces (Biber and the Bach Chaconne) makes for unusually satisfying performances.