Notes and Editorial Reviews
Note: The included bonus DVD is in the PAL format and may not play on a North American DVD player, though it will probably play on a computer.
Violin Concerto No. 1.
Romances: No. 1 in G; No. 2 in F
Philippe Quint (vn); Carlos Miguel Prieto, cond; Minería SO
AVANTI 5414706 10362 (SACD: 66:23)
Playing the 1708 Ruby Stradivari, Philippe Quint provides a full-throated and visceral, if aggressively rough-hewn, performance of Max Bruch’s First Violin Concerto that recalls the vibrancy of Isaac Stern’s first recording (perhaps even higher in voltage) rather than the intensity of Jascha Heifetz, the elegance of Nathan Milstein, or the warmth of David Oistrakh. An occasional portamento in the opening recitative-like
tempers the generally sharp articulation and stamps the reading as Quint’s own. He’s warmly expressive in the slow movement (again reminiscent of Stern), although slashing attacks reappear in the agitated passages toward the end. In the finale, neither hurried nor crushing in its weight, he still gives a vivid impression of thrust, while his sharp articulation adds a bang to the fireworks’ burst. Two final similarities hearken back to Stern’s reading: As did Eugene Ormandy, Carlos Miguel Prieto himself played the violin, making him a most sympathetic partner in this repertoire staple; and Avanti’s engineers have set Quint as far to the fore as Stern might have wished (and, at times, perhaps even farther).
Quint relates in his booklet notes that Ludwig van Beethoven’s two romances numbered among the first major repertoire he studied (at the age of seven), and he describes them as seductive in their melodiousness. In any case, that’s the way he plays the First Romance; and Prieto and the orchestra provide an accompaniment that’s far from perfunctory.
Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto may evoke reminiscences of liquid lyricism, but Quint makes it seem to be on steroids from the opening solo through the octaves, which sound in this case as though they might have been intended for the Brahms concerto. And as he winds down to the woodwind statement of the second theme, Quint sounds more like a weightlifter plumping down his barbells than like a dandy elegantly laying aside his snuff box. That’s not to say that he fails to communicate a sense of expectancy in hushed, sensitive moments; it’s just that these receive strong, even if not jarring, punctuation. As did Oistrakh, he slows down noticeably in the passage leading to the cadenza (he does so again near the movement’s end), which he plays as a cogent musical statement rather than as a dry technical exercise; finally, he brings the movement to a brilliant conclusion. In the famous slow movement, he also takes a harder rather than a softer approach, eschewing the pretty for the strong-minded. The finale, which clocks in at 6:16 (including the introduction), may not be the fastest on record, but it’s sprightly and engaging.
In Beethoven’s Second Romance, Quint returns to the suave manner he affected in the First, and Prieto and the orchestra once again bring bracing authority to the orchestral part. The recorded sound, in the SACD version, represents the close-up violin with a richness and fidelity that should delight those who relish the tonal qualities of the great instruments. The documentary disc is in PAL format, which perhaps not every DVD player will accept (not all my machines would).
If Quint’s readings aren’t highly individual, they’re nonetheless fresh and generally personal, ingratiating, and consistently interesting. His statement that he rethought everything for this recording hardly seems like hyperbole in light of the results. Urgently recommended to everyone willing to accept his palpable strength of purpose and the recorded sound’s close profile. Myself, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I arrived on the desert isle and found that I’d brought only this SACD along (with the equipment to play it, of course).
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn
Philippe Quint (Violin)
Carlos Miguel Prieto
Mineria Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1844; Germany
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