REDISCOVERING THE Romances
Lee, Louise, Strings
VIOLINIST PHILIPPE QUINT ON PLAYING TWO OF BEETHOVEN'S MOST LYRICAL PIECES AND A COUPLE OF BELOVED WARHORSES
Until recently, violinist Philippe Quint didn't worked on Beethoven's two Romances for a while. For many years, in fact, the last time was when I was about six," he says. Rediscovering the Romances has turned out to be a rewarding project for Quint. Wrapped up for years in recording newer music, Quint recently immersed himself in the Romances and has recorded them, along with concertos of Bruch and Mendelssohn, for his newest CD.
Long a champion of contemporary works, Quint has recorded Bernstein's Serenade, concertos by Ned Rorem, and William Schuman, as well as sonatas by John Corigliano and Miklos Rozsa, all for the Naxos label. More recently, he embarked on a different path, releasing in 2010 a collection of Paganini works arranged by the legendary Fritz Kreisler. For his latest undertaking, on the Belgian label Avanticlassic, Quint worked with conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Mineria. "I'm excited about the fact that the Romances are on the CD," he says during a phone interview.
"Having them on the CD adds to the Mendelssohn and Bruch and shows the development of the violin school from classical to romantic. It's an interesting progression of violin writing."
When during the composer's mid-life in 1798 and 1802, Beethoven's Romance No. 1 in G, Op. 40, and Romance No. 2 in P, Op. 50, are both built on lyrical dialog between soloist and orchestra. To Quint, the composer's likely frame of mind at the time of writing is a crucial bit of context. "He was frequently in love and looking for a muse, sometimes finding and sometimes not finding one," Quint says. "I can imagine him writing these Romances and looking at somebody out the window, somebody inspiring him at the time. And having this idea in mind helped me bring out certain colors in these pieces."
On the recording, Quint sought a balance between being faithful to rhythm and making lyrical lines flow. "I was looking for the right sound, the right vibrato," he says. "I was thirtHfg about something that Isaac Stern told me a long time ago, which was to find the meaning behind every note. After years of thinking and reevaluating, I couldn't agree more that there is a meaning behind every note. And I found my own interpretation of what he said, thinking that you have to pay attention to each note, starting from intonation, sound quality, starting from the very contact of the bow with the string and even before that."
Working. up the Romances, Quint didn't listen to others' recordings of the works, nor did he play the pieces for others to solicit feedback. "I wanted to come out with something special and personal based on my own experience with Beethoven," he says.
"The result was interesting. Those Romances felt as fresh as works can be. It felt spontaneous and easy to record. I did not want to be influenced by anything."
Unlike the Romances, the Mendelssohn and Bruch Concertos have appeared countles limit on Quint's concert playlist. Despite the concertos' reputation as overplayed warhorses (Quint himself notes that he has performed them more than any other works), the violinist says he has long wanted to record them. After numerous performances with many conductors and orchestras, he was ready to take the plunge.
Quint says he has long felt familiar with the music of Mendelssohn, having studied and performed many of the composer's other chamber and orchestral works during the past 20 years. Still, Quint calls the start oí Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, in which the soloist enters promptly, "one of most fearful openings for any violinist. It doesn't get easier - it gets harder and harder, because you're trying to bring out more and more color."
Considered the first romantic concerto in the repertoire, the work, which had its premiere in 1845, has many elements that were at the time unusual, including the absence of pauses between movements and a fully written-out cadenza. …