This double CD is a real treasure, and a showcase of both the musicianship and scholarship. Rachel Barton Pine has researched both the composers and the history of the performances of the works she has recorded. She has produced the most attractive booklet which goes with the CDs, in which she teaches the subject in an effective, friendly and captivating way. Particularly interesting is her documentation of Sarasate's familiarity with Scottish fiddling. Rachel Barton Pine has also a very attractive and informative web site on which one can find information about this project. Just "Google" her and her site comes right up. I think that her web site is great. One can find the schedule of her concerts and all sorts of interesting educational things. I only wish that all great performers would do the same.
Rachel Barton Pine is a virtuoso, but her musicianship shines and it makes her virtuosity just a tool. She is so much more than the flying fingers. In a winning combination with Maestro Alexander Platt, an immensely talented conductor, they have produced a classic which will be listened to for years to come. There may never be a comparable Scottish Fantasy and Pibroch Suite performance. Mr. Platt leaves no note unexpressed. As opposed to the lesser conductors, who sometimes overpower the soloist, or who seek their own limelight at the expense of the soloist, Mr. Platt achieves a perfect union of the soloist and the orchestra, just as it should be. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is also at its best.
These records' main value is in the interpretation, which is insightful and elegant. There are no over-interpretations, however, in which the soloist or orchestra would push their own detailed view of this music. Instead, certain dreaminess is allowed, and the listeners can build their own Scottish Fantasies and become active participants in this music.
Sarasate's Airs écossaise is a totally charming piece. The Medley of Scots Tunes, by Rachel Barton Pine and Alasdair Fraser, a master Scottish fiddler, is an event. I admit to listening to it consecutively eight times, and would have listened to it more times, but was afraid of a total addiction.
The great art of fiddling, the artists' dreams about their countries of origin, pictures of beautiful Scotland, and the musical finesse and musicianship are all the impressions you will come out with after listening to these great recordings.
This review is dedicated to Dr. Andrew B. Dempster for his birthday. Andrew has shown me his native country, Scotland, and guided me through its history. I came back with wonderful memories, and a book of music sheets on Scottish fiddling, my most precious music sheets ever.