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Coaxing The Baby To Sleep: A Violinist's Hand-Picked Lullabies

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine says she had her infant daughter in mind when she decided to record an album of lullabies.
Violinist Rachel Barton Pine says she had her infant daughter in mind when she decided to record an album of lullabies.

In German, it's wiegenlied; in French, berceuse; in Norwegian, vuggevise. In any language, the universal effect of what we know as the lullaby is, of course, to coax a baby to sleep.

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine had her own baby in mind when she decided to record a collection of lullabies. Her infant daughter appears on the cover of the new album Violin Lullabies — all folded up, fast asleep, so tiny she just about fits in her dad's hands.

"When I wanted to make sure that I was really capturing the right flavor, I just thought of my daughter in the recording studio," Barton Pine says. "And that sort of made me feel the music in the right way every time."

Barton Pine describes herself as a sheet music geek. From her collection, she created a shortlist of lullabies from composers including the biggies — Brahms, Schubert, Schumann — but also a number of surprises.

"There are some composers here who are known, but lesser known," she says. "And then, there are some composers who are absolutely, completely obscure. Like, who had ever heard of Antsev and Rebikov and Schwab?"

For the record, those are composers Mikhail Antsev, Vladimir Rebikov and Ludwig Schwab, who contribute three of the diverse batch of works — 25 in total — that Barton Pine interprets on the album.

"Some of them are about lulling the baby to sleep, some of them are about describing the baby who's sleeping, and some of them might even be describing a dream itself," Barton Pine says. "And that's also how I chose which mute to use — the little special things that sit on top of the bridge to give the tone quality of the violin an even more covered, more delicate and impressionistic sound."

Barton Pine says that even the family histories of the composers themselves influenced her performance. To hear more of her conversation with NPR's Melissa Block, click the audio link on this page.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.