RPO guest artist feels lost without violin

05:00 AM, Jan 26, 2014

Violinist Philippe Quint will perform with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra this week. (Philipp Jeker/ / Photo provided by the RPO)/


Written By Daniel J. Kushner

If you go

What: Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s “An Evening in Paris” concert, featuring violinist Philippe Quint.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St.
Cost: $15 to $92; $10 for students.
For tickets: (585) 454-2100 or rpo.org.

If you’re a Francophile, you may find it hard not to fall in love with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s “An Evening in Paris” program this week.

The concert boasts a truly powerhouse lineup of composers — Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saëns and Igor Stravinsky — all of whom had a penchant for creating some of the most evocative music of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The guest conductor is Paris-born Fabien Gabel.

And perhaps most notable is the guest turn by dynamic violinist Philippe Quint.

Quint likes the challenge and vitality of joining an orchestra.

Music-making is exactly the ability to collaborate, the ability to be flexible, the ability to find common ground, even if you are coming from very different backgrounds,” Quint says.

Though Quint has made a name for himself as a concert musician, in 2011 he earned the additional distinction of becoming the first classical artist to be the leading actor in a major independent movie.

In Downtown Express — produced by Michael Hausman, who also worked on Amadeus — Quint played Sasha, who not unlike himself is a Russian-born musician who attends The Juilliard School and is drawn to New York City’s downtown music scene. The musician sees a correlation between the worlds of music and acting.

One of the instructions that any acting coach would tell an actor is ‘It’s not about acting, it’s about reacting,’ ” Quint says. “And for me, that is what music is about. It’s about listening to your collaborators, listening to your teammates.”

Another similarity is the need to be in the “moment,” he says.

That lesson, as it applies to music, he learned as a 20-year-old student at Juilliard from the celebrated violinist Isaac Stern. Stern, he says, taught him that every note has significance.

Since then, Quint, now 39, has sought to apply this idea to his performances.

It’s been a very challenging quest — sometimes torturous, sometimes frustrating,” he says. “But it certainly, you know, gave me something priceless.”

When Quint takes the stage to perform Saint-Saëns’s Violin Concerto No. 3 with his current instrument — a 1708 Stradivarius named “Ruby,” for its distinctive color — there will be added meaning.

The concerto was dedicated to and premiered in January 1881 by Pablo de Sarasate. Quint notes that Sarasate once wrote that he had played the “Ruby” and was impressed with its musical characteristics.

Quint seems to see his instrument not just as an indispensable tool but as essential to his very being.

I don’t think of a violin as a separate entity anymore,” he says. “Since I’ve been playing since the age of 4, the violin basically had become a part of me. So whenever I’m without the violin, I’m always wondering where it is. And when I finally play the violin, it feels like I’m finally complete.”

Quint will also perform Ravel’s rhapsody “Tzigane,” which has a very particular resonance with the violinist. The term “tzigane” is French for “gypsy.”

The immediate association is for me freedom, liberty — something passionate, seductive,” Quint says.

When I first heard this piece, I was wondering if the pianist had forgotten to come in, because (the violin) introduction is so long,” the violinist says. “And then the piece develops like a fiery train, you know, all the way through to the end in a very gypsy, flamboyant style. And there’s really nothing else like this in the repertoire.”

Other works on the program, all of which premiered in Paris, are orchestral favorites “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Debussy and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.