The question hardly anybody wants to ask is: would 22-year-old violinist Rachel Barton be booked solid for the next couple seasons had a tragic Metra accident not claimed one of her legs? Probably not--it's generally quite difficult for a young performer to break away from a pack of competitive prodigies like the one Barton came up with. Look at cellist Wendy Warner, Barton's contemporary and sometime partner. Also an exceptional talent in her early 20s, she's not nearly as sought after. Fortunately, Barton has the talent to back up the reputation, and she's too proud to be a mere poster child for triumph over adversity--though to her credit she doesn't shirk that role. (For the sad spectacle of a victim passing off anguish as talent, go see Shine.) A role model for Barton seems to be violinist Itzhak Perlman, who suffers from the effects of childhood polio but whose artistry clearly overwhelms any impulse to pity him. Barton's increasing maturity was evident at her February subscription-concert debut with the CSO, in which she turned Paganini's underrated second violin concerto into a thoughtful yet impassioned commentary on virtuosity. Her repertory choices reflect a refreshing combination of quirkiness and scholarly curiosity: the subject of her first CD was the neglected Spanish violinist-composer Pablo de Sarasate; her latest recording (on Cedille) is an eloquent compilation of Handel's relatively unknown sonatas for violin and continuo. For this recital, Barton's come up with some unusual selections--Amy Beach's Romance, a Biber passacaglia, and Handel's fifth sonata--to complement the more predictable ones, such as Liszt's pyrotechnic Hungarian Rhapsody no. 12 and Brahms's Sonata no. 2. If she plays as well as she has been recently, it could be an enchanted evening. Thursday, July 10, 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Rachel Barton photo/ uncredited.