Rachel Barton Pine is an incredibly skilled violinist, but her connection to Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major goes far beyond the notes in the score.
She will perform the piece with Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Stuart Malina this weekend as part of a season-opening Masterworks program that also includes Gustav Mahler’s epic First Symphony.
In a way, Pine will carry a piece of Brahms with her on stage at The Forum. The 1742 Guarneri violin she plays was handpicked by Brahms in 1897 for a performance of the concerto by violinist Marie Soldat.
The virtuoso Soldat (1863-1955) was a long-time champion of this work, and the Guarneri has remained connected to the piece ever since.
“I like to think that Brahms chose this violin in part because its voice represents most closely what he envisioned for his concerto,” said Pine, an avid student of music history.
In learning a work, she analyzes the score, but also studies the composer’s life, the culture of the time and his or her other works.
“I’m always working to find an effective balance between intellectual validity and instinct — good ideas won’t be effective if you don’t feel them inside, but what you feel needs to be backed up by something more meaningful than ‘I like it that way,’” Pine, 43, explained. “Basically, every performance needs to be a true collaboration between the performer and the composer, even if the composer has long passed away.”
The beautiful yet technically challenging concerto was written by Brahms (1833-97) in 1878 for his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim.
Pine, who made her debut with the Chicago Orchestra at the age of 10, has performed the work many times during a career that has spanned the world.
“It’s one of the greatest works for violin and orchestra in the entire repertoire,” Malina said.
The second half of the season’s first program, which will be performed Saturday night and again Sunday afternoon at The Forum in downtown Harrisburg, will be taken up by Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major. The four-movement symphony was mainly composed in 1887-88, but underwent several revisions and did not appear in its final form until 1896.
Malina, who is entering his 17th season as HSO’s music director, had high praise for the first of nine memorable symphonies the Austrian composer would create during his life (1860-1911).
“Mahler’s First Symphony is an emotional and dynamic landscape,” he said, “taking us from the quietest of the quiet to the most majestic music ever written for orchestra.”
The weekend concerts are the first of seven Masterworks programs HSO will perform between now and May. Also on the schedule are four Pops programs, beginning Oct. 28-29 with a celebration of the Beatles’ landmark 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”