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CHAMBER REVIEW
Santa Rosa Concert Association / Sunday, January 11, 2009
Philippe Quint

Philippe Quint

TOUR DE FORCE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 11, 2009

Violinist Philippe Quint’s third appearance on the Santa Rosa Concert Association stage Jan. 11 was indeed the charm, easily surpassing his two previous recitals in the Wells Fargo Center. He displayed both consummate virtuosity and audience appeal.

In a program divided equally between familiar classical works and arcane selections, Quint and pianist Dmitry Cogan were an ideal pair, opening with an amiable reading of Mozart’s E Minor Sonata, K. 304. Good balance was the order of the day here, with the extended unison playing in the Allegro absolutely seamless. The tranquility continued in Beethoven’s F Major Sonata, Op. 24, the ever-popular “Spring.” The playing had lift throughout, and Quint’s intonation was precise. In the lovely Adagio molto espressivo, many violinists sound like they are playing a sequence of phrases that start and stop. In contrast, Quint sculpted one long breathtaking phrase. The Rondo finale lacked drama, the musicians opting for a serene dialogue of question and answer, stressing joy over momentum. Both the Mozart and Beethoven were played from score.

Finishing the first half was the Brahms Sonatensatz in C Minor, a seldom-performed scherzo that is similar to much of the great master’s D Minor Sonata. Here again the union of the instruments was nearly ideal, though Cogan is an accompanist wholly deferential to the soloist, without ever mounting ringing forte. One wonders how he would sound in the piano part of one of the repertoire’s more muscular sonatas, such as the Strauss, Franck, Respighi or Beethoven’s “Kreutzer.” That said, Cogan’s rhythm is rock solid and his ear for instrumental color is uncanny. What more could a violinist want?

Three of the Corigliano Caprices from the movie score “Red Violin” opened the second half, preceded by a charming story told by Quint concerning a telephone conversation with the composer regarding a bedside lamp. These virtuoso works, Nos. 2, 4, and 5, demonstrated Quint’s steady control of the bow and his marvelous slides. The final Caprice was a tour de force of extraordinary fingerboard skill and daring. In Bloch’s “Nigun” from the Baal Shem Suite, Quint used a much broader vibrato, the notes of the tender ending easily carrying to the top balcony row.

Two fast-paced pieces concluded the program, led by Tchaikovsky’s sprightly “Valse Scherzo.” Quint’s spiccato bow danced around the lyrical theme, with his string tone occasionally darkening for telling effect. Nothing was tentative here, or in the “Tzigane” showpiece of Ravel. Early in the latter, the climactic high G on the G string was taken cleanly with a sharp attack and no “slithering” up to the note. Virtuoso stuff, played with abandon and just the right measure of pyrotechnics. A large portion of the audience stood and shouted.

Time dictated hearing just the first of the encores, a Brahms Hungarian Dance, No. 5 in the set of 21. Here again the deft passagework and bow speed of the young Russian were impressive, and later I am told some Kreisler and the “Meditation from Thais” were offered to loud acclaim.

Philippe Quint and Dmitry Cogan are an imaginative partnership. They mounted the most impressive violin-and-piano recital in the North Bay concert season.

Violinist Daniel Greenhouse collaborated in this review