Monday, July 4, 2011

Rachel Barton Pine in 'Etude No. 6' of José White, Afro-Cuban Composer, on 'Capricho Latino,' Cedille Records

[ABOVE: Capricho Latino; Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Cedille Records CDR 90000 124 (2011) BELOW: José White - Shown here after he received the 1st prize for violin at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1856. Bibliothèque Nationale de France; Wikipedia]

José Silvestre White (1835-1918), aka José Silvestre White y Lafitte, was an Afro-Cuban composer, violinist and professor who is profiled at Before discussing Rachel Barton Pine's new CD, it is worth mentioning that Cedille Records is the label of The Chicago Classical Recording Foundation, “a not-for-profit foundation devoted to promoting the finest musicians and ensembles in the Chicago area.” In a period of great tumult, both in the recording industry and in Classical Music, Cedille Records has set a great example as a nonprofit “boutique label” which consistently produces recordings of high quality while frequently exploring neglected repertoire.

We were introduced to Cedille Records by its 1997 release Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th & 19th Centuries; Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Encore Chamber Orchestra; Daniel Hege, Conductor. One of its four works was the CD premiere of the 1864 Violin Concerto in F-sharp Minor of José White. It is an attractive example of a Romantic violin concerto and compares well with other works on the disc. Classics Today rated the CD “10/10” and a review in The New York Times was also very favorable. We have taken great pleasure from other Cedille releases by Rachel Barton Pine, including Brahms & Joachim Violin Concertos, CDR 90000 068; and Beethoven & Clement Violin Concertos, 90000 106.

“Violinist Rachel Barton Pine, Cedille Records' all-time best-selling artist, has created another rare - perhaps unique - contribution to the world's CD catalog: an album of Spanish and Latin American music written solely for unaccompanied violin. Capricho Latino, Ms. Pine's 12th Cedille CD, offers eight world-premiere recordings: In addition to premieres of works by Roque Cordero, César Espejo, and José White, the CD brings first-time recordings of pieces composed or arranged for Ms. Pine by José Serebrier, Luis Jorge González, and Jesús Florido; and two of her own arrangements. The diverse program of virtuoso pieces draws from the late-Romantic period to the present day. Represented are composers from Argentina, Cuba, Panama, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela - plus works in a Spanish vein by Belgian and English composers. Inaugurating this musical journey is Ms. Pine's virtuoso arrangement of Albéniz's Asturias, which draws on both the familiar guitar version and the original but less-known piano score. The CD ends with a treat for listeners of all ages: Alan Ridout's Ferdinand the Bull, narrated with great affection by Obie and Emmy award winning actor Héctor Elizondo, a veteran of Broadway, Hollywood, and network television.”

In the liner notes of Capricho Latino, Rachel Barton Pine explains why she first chose to perform music for solo violin:
“My interest in music for unaccompanied violin originated out of necessity. As a child growing up in a financially struggling household, I faced a number of challenges in pursuing my violin studies.” “Choosing to learn Paganini's Nel Cor Più Non Mi Sento for solo violin rather than his I Palpiti for violin and piano, or Bartok's Sonata for Solo Violin instead of one of his duo sonatas, meant less money spent on accompanist fees.”

In its review of Capricho Latino, notes:
“Jose White's Etude No. 6 is more mainstream than most of the other works on the album and strikes a Romantic note in the program.” Craig Zeichner observed in on June 21, 2011: “Pine is one of the great violinists and in a short time has made some of the most consistently excellent recordings available anywhere, this may be one of her very best.” CD Universe classifies the recording as “Post-Romantic.”

Rachel Barton Pine writes in the liner notes:
“Each of White's Six Etudes (1868) is dedicated to a famous violinist: his teacher Alard, Ernesto Camillo Sivori, Henri Vieuxtemps, Henryk Wieniawski, Hubert Leonard, and one Secundino Arango, whose identity has intrigued European and American scholars. Arango, Afro-Cuban, born in Havana at the end of the 18th century and deceased in the same city in the late 1840's, was a violinist, cellist, organist, and composer of both religious music and popular danzones. He was also White's first violin teacher. Fittingly, White's Etude No. 6 is a danzón with a pyrotechnic central section much in the virtuoso Parisian style of the time.”

Prof. Josephine Wright was a Professor of Music at the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio when she wrote an article entitled Violinist José White In Paris, 1855-1875. It was published by the Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 1990. “José Silvestre White (1835-1918) enjoyed an international reputation as a leading concert violinist in the late nineteenth century and was ranked by his contemporaries as a leading exponent of the modern school of French violin playing, along with Jean-Delphin Alard, Jules Armingaud, Charles Lamoreux, Jean-Pierre Maurin, and Arnaud Dancla (Pougin 1870). Although this Afro-Cuban was applauded on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as an accomplished musician, his links to the French school and concert life in Paris have been considerably de-emphasized by modern historians, who generally consign him to a footnote in the annals of American music history because of his historic debut in the United States with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra during 1875-1876.”

Prof. Wright quotes the Paris Conservatory's approval of José White's Six Etudes for Violin December 16, 1868: “The Committee of Musical Studies of the Conservatory has read with interest the work which Mr. WHITE has presented for its approbation. The work is composed of SIX ÉTUDES for Violin, where the principal difficulties of execution that this instrument presents are confronted. One remarks above all in these pages ingenious combinations proper to develop the mechanism of the left hand. The Committee approves these SIX ÉTUDES called to fortify the talent of violinists. [Daniel] AUBER, Director of the Conservatory, President of the Committee.”

Josephine Wright observes: “First, the heavy concentration of works for solo violin and string instruments in White's repertory place him in the unique company of a small group of composers in France who published literature for solo violin and stringed instruments in the late nineteenth century, e.g., Alard, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, and Vieuxtemps. Secondly, his compositions are quite accessible and offer string players an alternative to the standard repertory of concert literature. Of his published works, I personally found White's Six études pour violon, op. 13, the most exciting, both from a historical as well as a musical standpoint.” “Collectively, these études are striking for their melodic content as well as for their technical difficulty, and they give insight into the virtuosic skills of their creator.”

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