When Santa brought a 10-year-old Rachel Barton Pine a transistor radio, he opened her ears to a completely new genre of music.
The world-renowned violinist has been playing since she was 3. At 10, she was practicing seven hours a day, in addition to listening to her mother’s vinyl copies of works by classical composers.
She played with the dials, exploring all of the new sounds the little machine had to offer. A heavy metal radio show came on at 10 each night.
“I started listening to Anthrax and Slayer and Megadeth,” Pine says. “That music just really connected to me.”
Pine’s love of hard rock and heavy metal hasn’t left her. The musician will perform a set of heavy metal songs with three string players from Lancaster Symphony Orchestra on Friday night at Tellus360.
But Pine’s main reason for performing in Lancaster this weekend is a set of concerts with the Lancaster Symphony on Saturday at the Winter Center.
Pine also will give an educational speech and performance Friday at Willow Valley Communities.
The violinist’s many accomplishments include releasing 36 albums, appearing as a soloist with some of North America’s most prestigious ensembles, and numerous collaborations with renowned composers including Augusta Read Thomas and John Corigliano.
She’s overcome a lot in her extensive career, including a 1995 train accident in a Chicago suburb that severed one of her legs and left the other mangled. But that didn’t stop her.
During her Winter Center shows with the Lancaster Symphony, Pine will perform concertos by Bruch, Bach and Chesky, as well as a piece by Smetana.
Pine has a long relationship with Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. It was the first major romantic concerto she learned, at age 8.
“Every time I return to the Bruch, I’m just as delighted to be doing it as ever,” Pine says. “I never get bored with it, that’s for sure. Not every piece could stand up to that number of repetitions, but the Bruch certainly can.”
Chesky’s Violin Concerto No. 3 “Klezmer” was added at the suggestion of the Lancaster Symphony, Pine says. It will be her first time playing the piece, which she describes as “special and unusual.”
“I’ve had some experience with the actual Klezmer music, and it’s going to be awesome to play a concerto that incorporates that flavor as part of a large-scale, serious piece of art music,” Pine says. “I can’t wait to share that with the audience. It will be quite a contrast to the lushness of the Bruch.”
Contrast seems to be the theme of Pine’s weekend in Lancaster, considering her heavy metal performance at Tellus360.
She says she first thought her interest in the genre was because it cleansed her musical palate after long days rehearsing classical music. When she started playing heavy metal herself in her early 20s, she realized her two musical loves were more alike than she originally thought.
“I quickly realized that the reason I had been so interested in those technical subgenres, the subgenre of thrash and some of the British new wave of heavy metal and things like that, is because that music is actually very close to classical,” Pine says. “There are actually a lot of music fans out there who listen to metal and classical and nothing else.”
Pine has made quite a few friends in the heavy metal world. Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo has shown her his iPod full of Rachmaninoff and Liszt. Pine discussed violin sonatas with Marty Friedman, former lead guitarist of Megadeth. The lead guitarist in Alice Cooper’s band, Keri Kelli, picked her brain about pre-Paganini Italian virtuosos.
“They’re not just listening to Bach and Mozart,” Pine says. “They’re going pretty deep.”
Many musicians cut these extra performances from their schedule when they have a child, Pine says. She, on the other hand, has been able to keep them part of her touring schedule thanks to her husband and 5-year-old daughter, Sylvia, joining her on tour. He’s able to work from the road, and a nanny helps her daughter stay on track with schoolwork.
Sylvia started playing violin even earlier than her mom, at age 2 1/2, and has performed with Pine at children’s events. But Pine isn’t putting any pressure on her to follow a certain career path.
“My only goals for her are that she understands music and loves music and that music will be part of her life,” Pine says. “Whatever she does for a living will be totally her choice.”