January 07, 2020

Rachel barton pine: A True Pioneer

There are certain works that live in the violinist's DNA. For Rachel Barton Pine, this is only the beginning.


If you were to peruse the music library of your average international violin soloist, you'd most likely find concertos by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bruch, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. The Paganini Caprices would be there, as would the Bach Partitas. In the violin world, these and other works make up a core repertoire which feeds a lifelong journey of exploration and discovery. For violin virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine, these are only the beginning.

Pine is on a mission to radically transform the violin canon, a passion which has taken her down many a rabbit hole—archives, contemporary music concerts, rare book shops, people’s attics—all in search of forgotten (or yet-to-be written) treasures. One of the most fruitful of these threads proved to be the search for black composers.

Growing up in Chicago, Pine had played works by composers of color all her life, and decided to feature one of these works on her first concerto recording* at the age of 22. It was only then that she realized how rare this music is.

"I wasn't thinking about any of the social justice aspect or anything like that," Pine told National Public Radio. "But after the record came out, I started getting a huge number of requests from students and parents and teachers about, you know, 'Where can I find repertoire like this for kids of different levels?'"

Twenty years on, Pine has amassed nearly a thousand works by black composers. She hosts a website devoted to the subject, which offers children’s books, including a violin pedagogy book.

“It’s really important for any black person who is interested in classical music to know that this is not someone else’s music,” Pine told the Los Angeles Sentinel.  “And it’s really important for all of us to know about these vital voices of our past and present.”


Grammy Award-winning jazz composer Billy Childs piqued Pine’s interest in 2009 when he wrote a violin concerto for Regina Carter. Eventually, Pine asked Childs to write a short piece for violin and piano, which she recorded in 2018. A little over a year later, the Violin Concerto No. 2 began to take shape. A Grant Park Music Festival commission, Childs’s Violin Concerto No. 2 is scheduled to be premiered by Rachel Barton Pine on July 17 and 18 during the 2020 Grant Park Music Festival.


*Cedille Records 90000 035

Cedille Records 90000 182