Classical Album of the Week: Rachel Barton Pine's Soothing Violin Lullabies Are For All Of Us

May 6, 2020

May 4, 2020. The soft, rocking melody of a lullabye not only puts babies to sleep, but it can also comfort and calm even the most adult of us. As Mother's Day approaches, we think of those who nurture and soothe us; for our Classical Album of the Week, we turn to Rachel Barton Pine's 2013 recording, Violin Lullabies, featuring 25 works from different voices, generations, and cultures.

Rachel Barton Pine has always loved lullabies, and begins her album with the iconic melody that has lived in music boxes and infant toys for generations: Johannes Brahms' Wiegenied, which is German for cradle song, or lullabye.

She also loves collecting sheet music, and the birth of her daughter in 2013 prompted her to collect 150 classical music lullabies written for violin from around the world. Who knew there were so many lullabies - written for violin, no less!

"It's a little corner of the violin repertoire that explores the instrument in a way that we don't normally think of.  It's just all very subtle, very intimate," she told WRTI's Jill Pasternak soon after the album's release. "But within that sound world, there's actually a great deal of variety, composers from different generations [and] different voices from around the world."

From those different voices, Rachel selected 25 for her album, Violin Lullabies, recorded with her longtime collaborator, Matthew Hagel, on the piano.

Some of these lullabies, says Rachel, "felt really warm and comforting, as if they're soothing and rocking the baby to sleep. Others seem really dreamy and delicate, almost as if they're describing the sleeping baby."  There are also "lullabies that are sort of other-worldly and mysterious, like the Stravinsky [from The Firebird], that seem like they're describing the dream itself."

Stravinsky is among the well-known classical names featured, along with Faure, Respigi, Sibelius and Ravel. Also represented is Amy Marcy Cheny Beach, who was the first American woman to write and publish a symphony, in 1896. 

The intimacy of a lullabye can cast a different light on a composer known by grander works. Rachel points to the lullabye by Max Reiger. "We think of him as a very serious German contrapuntal composer, and yet his lullaby is just so beautiful and pure and touching."

"It shows you that there's this other human side to the composers; something about a lullabye touches a fundamental part of ourselves."

And one more especially poignant note: Rachel plays these lullabies on a violin that in the 1800's was chosen by Brahms for his student Marie Soldat. "To be able to play the beloved Brahms' lullabye, on the very violin Brahms himself chose, is pretty amazing."

TRACK LIST:

1. Johannes Brahms: Wiegenlied (Cradle Song), No. 4 from Fünf Lieder, Op. 49

2. Eugène Ysaÿe: Reve d'Enfant (Child's Dream), Op. 14

3. Vladimir Rebikov: Berceuse (Lullaby), No.1 From Trois Morceaux, Op. 7

4. Amy Marcy Cheney Beach: Berceuse (Lullaby) No. 2 From Three Compositions, Op. 40

5. Ludwig Schwab: Berceuse Ecossaise (Scottish Lullaby)

6. Ottorino Respighi: Berceuse (Lullaby), No. 1 from Sei Pezzi

7. George Gershwin: "Summertime" (arr. Igor Frolov) from Porgy and Bess

8. Manuel De Falla: Nana (Lullaby), No. 5  from Siete Canciones Populaires Espano

9. Gabriel Fauré: Berceuse (Lullaby) Op. 16

10. Jean Sibelius:Berceuse (Lullaby), No. 6 from Six Pieces

11. Pauline Viardot: Berceuse (Lullaby) No. 3 From Six Morceaux (Six Pieces), Op. 79

12. Alan Hovhaness: Oror (Lullaby), Op. 1

13. Igor Stravinsky: Berceuse (Lullaby) from The Firebird

14. Maurice Ravel: Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré (Lullaby on the Name Gabriel Fauré)

15. Rebecca Clarke: Lullaby

16. Franz Schubert: "Wiegenlied" (Cradle Song), D 498, Op. 98, No. 2

17. Franz Schubert: "Schlummerlied" (Slumber Song), Op. 124/16, from Albumblatter, Op. 124

18. Lucien Durosoir: Berceuse (Lullaby), No. 4 from Cinq aquarelles

19. Edvard Grieg: Vuggevise (Cradle Song), No. 1 from Lyric Pieces, Op. 38

20. Mikhail Antsev: Berceuse (Lullaby), No. 1 from Four Pieces

21. Richard Strauss: "Wiegenlied" (Cradle Song), No 1 From Fünf Lieder, Op. 41

22. Camilo Sivori: Berceuse (Lullaby) Op. 30

23. Victor Beraud: Petite reine Berceuse (Lullaby For A Little Queen)

24. William Grant Still: Mother and Child, No.2 from Suite for violin and piano

25 .Max Reger: "Wiegenlied" (Cradle Song) No.1 From Drei Kompositionen, Op. 79d

Check out more Classical Albums of the Week