It was clearly a bad start. Esteemed violinist Rachel Barton Pine attempted to board an airplane and fly to Albuquerque to perform with the New Mexico Philharmonic.
The American Airlines pilot, assuming the attitude of a pompous Prussian martinet, insisted her 1742 Joseph Guarneri “del Gesu” violin be tossed into cargo.
She refused, having no choice but to take another flight.
Fortunately, from that point things got decidedly better. She appeared with guest conductor Fawzi Haimor in the final Classics concert of the season on Saturday night at Popejoy Hall.
Along with Pine in the Beethoven concerto, the program included works by Brahms and Saint-Saëns.
Few could weave beautiful music from rowdy college drinking songs, but that’s exactly what happens in Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. Haimor conducted it will all the dignity of a symphony movement, even with the hell-raising percussion that concludes the work. Brahms would never again employ a cymbal crash in any of his music.
Half the orchestra (or so it seemed) then left the stage for the much smaller forces required in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Pine appeared with her most precious violin, to everyone’s relief unscathed by AA policy. Haimor’s very fluid and dynamic style, amply demonstrated in the Brahms, pitted against Pine’s exceptionally lyrical playing could have been disastrous.
But to these jaded ears it brought forth a dialectical contradiction both refreshing and true to the sense of Beethoven, the master of contrasts. The cadenza in the Allegro was Pine’s own, a veritable rhapsody of the prominent themes.
The Larghetto brought a serenity to provide solace to even the most troubled conscience, which could have been extended into eternity, with moments dipping into the twilight zone of mystery.
It was broken only by the pent up energy of the anticipatory chords waiting to bound into the joviality of the Rondo. Some of Beethoven’s most joyous music, the movement glowed with the honeyed yet gleaming tone of Pine’s del Gesu.
After an overwhelming ovation Pine returned with an encore of unbridled virtuosity, Kreisler’s Recitative and Scherzo which she announced in a bold and clear voice and then played with supreme artistry.
Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3, the so-called “Organ” Symphony, completed the program. The name is deceptive, as the organist (here Fred Frahm) is not a soloist but is thoroughly integrated into the ensemble.
The work employs Liszt’s idea of cyclical development with themes recurring in many forms and guises, even Classical techniques.