Meet the Music Makers: Rachel Barton Pine

UChicago Presents: Bach’s music obviously carries great significance among string players and violinists in particular, but what in particular drew you to these sonatas for violin and harpsichord?

Rachel Barton Pine: I’ve played the music of Bach for unaccompanied violin my entire life – those being the famous Six Sonatas and Partitas – but then there are these “other six” for violin and harpsichord. These were really groundbreaking at the time, because Bach actually fully wrote out both hands of the keyboard part, as opposed to a continuo part. Very often in these movements, what you find is a texture that's kind of like a trio for two people – the violin playing one part, the harpsichord right hand playing one part, and the left hand playing another part. When I’m playing these pieces, I feel like I'm “one third of the duo!”

It's always really neat to see the complexity of what Bach creates. Beyond all of that interesting historical and compositional stuff, these works are absolutely appealing to the heart, and that's what I love the most about them. It’s all of the emotion that they contain and the variety of different moods that they create, and when you're jamming with a great harpsichordist like Jory Vinikour, it's never the same way twice.

UCP: Speaking of Jory Vinikour, I understand that this album you recorded together marks a reunion for the two of you, since he just moved back to Chicago full time as of 2015. How did you first meet and begin playing together?

RBP: The interesting thing is that Jory and I both attended the Music Institute of Chicago at the same time, but we didn't really know each other during our student years. Once his career began, I started to hear about him; he had gone off to Europe to make his career and live there, but on one of his visits back to Chicago, he asked me if I wanted to read through these sonatas. I jumped at the opportunity and we had such a good time playing together, so I thought, Gosh, Bach is my favorite composer, this is one of my favorite Bach players; if I ever do these violin and harpsichord sonatas for an album, this would be my first choice.

It wasn't logistically practical when he and his gorgeous instrument were both in Europe. Luckily, since he moved back a few years ago, we're performing this stuff more and more, and we feel like we are growing with it every time, and the partnership is only deepening. That's the magical thing about chamber music – when you find a connection with someone where it just clicks, there's some kind of unity of spirits that makes the sum greater than the parts.

UCP: I understand that in addition to being a lifelong Chicago resident, you also have personal ties to the University of Chicago.

RBP: I don't know if this has ever been true if anybody you've presented on your series, but I actually wouldn't exist if not for the University of Chicago! My parents are both graduates and they met on my mom's first day of school when my dad was the upperclassmen assigned to show her around campus. And the rest is history!