“Opera Breve” = Works of FALLA, TCHAIKOVSKY, DONIZETTI, GLUCK, ROSSINI, R. STRAUSS, GERSHWIN, SAINT-SAENS, HUMPERDINCK, RAFF for violin & piano – Quint & Maisky – Avanti Classic

by | Sep 21, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

Opera Breve” = FALLA: Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve; TCHAIKOVSKY: Lensky’s Aria from Eugen Onegin; DONIZETTI: Una Furtiva Lagrima from L’Elisir d’Amore; GLUCK: Melodie from Orfeo ed Euridice; ROSSINI: Parpahrase on Largo al factotum from Il barbiere di Siviglia; R. STRAUSS: Morgen, Op. 27, No. 4; GERSHWIN: 3 Songs from Porgy and Bess; SAINT-SAENS: Cantabile from Samson et Dalila; HUMPERDINCK: Children’s Prayer from Haensel und Gretel; RAFF: Cavatina, Op. 85, No. 3 – Philippe Quint, violin/ Lily Maisky, p. – Avanti Classic 5414706 10402, 53:23 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

In a recording made at the Teldex Studio, Berlin (12-14 July 2012), Russian-born violinist Philippe Quint (b. 1974) performs a series of pieces specifically related to his musical biography, a collection of songs and opera arias that serve as “associations, reflections, and memories that made me remember very significant people and moments in my life.” Of particular note, Mrs. Hannah Noether (1915-1999), Quint’s special mentor receives a memento mori in the form of Quint’s transcription of Humperdinck’s Evening Prayer, which “catalyst” Noether commissioned.  Quint performs on the 1708 “Ruby” Antonio Stradivarius whose alternating silken and rasping tone effects marvelous harmony in collaboration with Ms. Maisky’s deft keyboard virtuosity.

Opening with an extraordinary, “gypsified” version of Kreisler’s arrangement of  Falla’s Spanish Dance, we feel a distinct musical atavism, as if young Quint were either Heifetz or Ricci in his heyday. Seamless rubato marks this version, along with a staccato that whistles as it cuts the  air. For the Lensky aria in the Auer arrangement, Quint reveals an equally fragrant legato, certainly reminiscent of what Wunderlich could do to melt our hearts. Quint remarks that “Tchaikovsky truly remain[s] unparalleled in expressing the core of the Russian soul.” The passionate melody that breaks out as a climax bears a remarkable likeness to an ardent theme in the composer’s Francesca da Rimini. 

For the bel canto aria from Donizetti, Quint recalls having as his models tenors Pavarotti and Lanza. Both Quint and Maisky achieve a tender cantilena style that applies with equal beauty and flexibility to Gershwin, as it would to anything in Paganini or Sarasate. The familiar Orfeo Melodie (arr. Kreisler) has the same, smooth intimate power we know from old masters Elman and Milstein. We might recall that Sophie and Nathan die to this music in William Styron’s tragic novel.  The opposite end of the operatic spectrum arrives in the form of Quint’s galloping rendition of Rossini’s buffo Largo al factotum as arranged by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, rife with cats’ meows.  The playful fancy of the arrangement may remind listeners of what baritone John Charles Thomas could accomplish vocally to avoid anything like predictability.

The arrangements of the Richard Strauss song “Morgen” and the Saint-Saens aria (“My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice”) come to Quint courtesy of his piano collaborator Lily Maisky (b. 1987), whose father Mischa Maisky made the transcriptions. Gershwin by way of Jascha Heifetz proffers a familiar suite from Porgy and Bess: Summertime; A Woman is a Sometime Thing; My Man’s Gone Now; and It Ain’t Necessarily So. Quint’s violin can buzz as well as purr, and Maisky’s keyboard naturally realizes Gershwin’s sense of swing. The plaintive “Bess You is My Woman Now” always simmers in a soulful wash. As poignant as the Saint-Saens aria, the Humperdinck Evening Prayer, which Quint realizes became a “min-requiem” for his mentor Hannah Noether, beguiles in its ardent simplicity of expression.

Lastly, Quint acknowledges the influence of Mischa Elman for his “Bonus” offering, Joachim Raff’s Cavatina, the third of his Six Morceaux for Violin and Piano. As valedictory in spirit as any of the tender adagios on this disc, the Raff makes a fitting end to a bittersweet tribute to “those folks that stayed behind the scenes [of Quint’s talent] all these years.”

[This album is also available in an Avanti multichannel SACD version…Ed.]

—Gary Lemco

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