Russian-born U.S. émigré Philippe Quint came to the United States as a teenager to study violin at New York City's Juilliard School. Since graduating from the famed performing arts conservatory in 1998, Quint has become one of the most celebrated violinists of his generation. Quint's skills as a solo, chamber, and orchestral musician have taken him around the globe to performances in Mexico, Italy, Canada, and South Africa. He has played with symphonies in Detroit and Houston, as well as with Britain's Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Australia's Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and the China National Symphony. In 2001, Quint earned a Grammy nomination for his debut album—a flawless recoding of William Schuman's Violin Concerto. As a live performer, Quint is quick to captivate a crowd. Writing in the Bangor Daily News, music critic Emily Burnham dubbed his performance "visually arresting, passionate and technically flawless."
Quint hails from an Italian-Catholic, Russian-Jewish family. He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, around 1974. At the time, St. Petersburg was part of the Soviet Union. In Quint's family, music served as a perpetual backdrop to daily life. Quint's mother, Lora Kvint, a successful Russian composer, is often referred to as the Ukraine's Andrew Lloyd Webber. She was well known for her Russian rock operas and a composition on the life of Galileo.
Quint's mother gave him the French-sounding first name of Philippe because she was infatuated with a French monarch of the same name. Quint's last name is Italian and is a derivation of Quinti. Quint's great-great-great-grandfather was an Italian officer who served under Napoleon. Injured during a battle in 1812 and stranded in Lithuania, this great-great-great-grandfather was nourished back to health by a Russian-Jewish woman who later became his wife. At that time, the family named morphed to Kvint because the Russian alphabet had no equivalent for Q. After Quint immigrated to the United States in 1991, he went back to the original spelling with the "Q."
Introduced to Violin at Four
When Quint was four, his grandparents gave him a violin. They wanted the youngster to learn the instrument in the hopes of forming a family trio. Quint's mother played piano, while his uncle played cello. Quint just wanted to play soccer. "The violin was not my choice," he told the Columbia Daily Tribune's Mary T. Nguyen. "I thought it was a new toy—break it and move on to the next one. It's not like in America. Here they ask what would you like to do, what do you dream to be. … In Russia, it doesn't work like this. It's like, ‘You're going to be a violinist.’ Trust me, I had no choice. But sometimes it's a good thing not to have a choice. You're pressed into doing one thing and doing it really well."
Quint may not have chosen the violin, but he took to it like a natural and made his debut at the age of nine, performing Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Leningrad School Orchestra. Around age 13, Quint earned admission to Moscow's Special Music School for the Gifted. Surrounded by a large pool of incredibly gifted violinists, Quint—for the first time—took his studies more seriously. "The school was very competitive," he told the Columbia Daily Tribune's Chris Boeckmann. "When I got into that environment, I started to practice like crazy. Time didn't matter; I just wanted to get to the top of my class. Naturally, I improved."
Quint's mother did her best to expose him to a broad range of music. Under the Communist regime, however, schools did not teach about musicians who had defected. As a result, Quint grew up without much knowledge about some of his country's greatest musicians, including famed composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, violinist Jascha Heifetz, and legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz. "They all left Russia, so nobody talked about them," Quint told Mary Kunz Goldman of the Buffalo News. "And it was hard to get their recordings."
Immigrated to United States
In 1991, Quint immigrated to the United States and settled in New York City to study at Juilliard. There, he met some of the most highly regarded string players of the day, including Itzhak Perlman, Pinkhas Zukerman, Isaac Stern, and Midori. He also got the chance to study under the late Dorothy DeLay, one of the world's most noted violin teachers of all time. As a musician, Quint blossomed under DeLay's gentle yet direct guidance, which was a compete change from the stern degradation used by Russian teachers. Speaking to the Buffalo News, Quint recalled his time at Juilliard under Day's guidance. "She'd call everyone ‘honey’ or ‘sugarplum.’ She'd say, ‘Sugarplum, come over here.’ If your note was off, she wouldn't say that. She'd say, ‘Sweetie, what is your concept of F sharp?’ And you'd know what she meant."
In 1996, Quint made his Carnegie Hall debut after winning the Waldo Mayo Talent Award, which is given to the most gifted performer in New York. Since the late 1800s, the Manhattan-based Carnegie Hall has been used to showcase the world's greatest classical musicians. In 1998, Quint made his New York recital debut, playing at the Lincoln Center. In 2001, the classical music label Naxos invited Quint to record William Schuman's Violin Concerto alongside the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of maestro Jose Serebrier. It was a good fit and Quint was invited back to join the symphony during the 2001-2002 season to play Stravinsky's Violin Concerto. The Schuman recording earned Quint a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra.
For the Record …
Born Philippe Kvint, circa 1974 in St. Petersburg, Soviet Union. Son of Lora Kvint (a Russian composer). Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School, New York City, 1998.
Began playing violin at age four; made debut at age nine performing Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Leningrad School Orchestra; studied at Moscow's Special Music School for the Gifted, beginning around 1987; immigrated to United States, 1991; studied at the Juilliard School, 1990s; made Carnegie Hall debut, 1996; made first recording, William Schuman's Violin Concerto, 2001; performed as professional solo, orchestral, and chamber musician, 1998—.
Awards: Waldo Mayo Talent Award, 1996; Spain's Pablo de Sarasate International Violin Competition, Special Audience Prize and competition winner, 1997; Salon de Virtuosi Award, 1997; Juilliard Competition winner, 1998; Gramophone magazine, Editor's Choice Award, for William Schuman: Violin Concerto, 2001; Strad magazine, Editor's Choice Award, for William Schuman: Violin Concerto, 2001; Gramophone magazine, Editor's Choice Award, for Leonard Bernstein: Serenade, Facsimile, Divertimento, 2005.
Addresses: Agent—Arts Management Group, William J. Capone, 37 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10010. Web site—Philippe Quint Official Web site: http://www.philippequint.com.
After his success with the Schuman disc, Quint was summoned to the recording studio by German-born U.S. composer Lukas Foss, who wanted to record the piano and violin pieces he had composed over his career. Released in 2003, Foss Plays Foss featured Foss on piano, Quint on violin, and Rosemary Alvino on vocals. Quint enjoyed the project because it provided him with the opportunity to work with a living composer with whom he could discuss his interpretation. Usually, when preparing a piece, Quint studies the composer's life and the history of the piece to try and get a clear picture of the composer's intention. Working with Foss, however, enabled Quint to ask for clarifications. Speaking to the Buffalo News, Quint recalled the experience of working with Foss. "I'd tell him, ‘I'm not comfortable with this crescendo,’ and he'd say, ‘Let's hear what you want.’"
Earned Reputation as Violin Virtuoso
By the mid-2000s, Quint was in high demand as both a recording artist and a live performer. In 2004, Quint was the featured soloist for the world premiere of Lera Auerbach's Concerto No. 1. Auerbach, a fellow Russian immigrant, dedicated the piece to Quint. In 2005, Quint returned to England to play with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop to record Leonard Bernstein's Serenade. In 2006, Quint joined the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, under maestro Serebrier, to record Ned Rorem's Violin Concerto. In 2007, Quint was summoned to join pianist William Wolfram to record the complete works of Miklos Rozsa.
In 2007, filmmaker David Grubin cast Quint in a lead role for a future feature production called Russian Blue. The movie will tell the story of a Russian cellist and his violin-playing son who move to New York in hopes of launching music careers. Quint was looking forward to the opportunity to try something new and believes there are similarities between acting and violin playing. In each case, the actor or musician must be in the moment to pull off the performance and must be able to anticipate what the other performers are doing.
In 2008, Quint made headlines for giving a private, half-hour concert at the Newark Liberty International Airport. Quint gave the concert as a way to say thanks to a New York City cabbie who found and returned the $4 million violin he inadvertently left in the back seat of a cab. This violin, a 1723 Kiesewetter Stradivarius, was made by Italian Antonio Stradivari and owned by 18th-century German composer and violinist Christophe Kiesewetter, who played it some 200 years ago. Quint had received the violin on loan in 2006. It was unclear as to whether Quint would get to keep playing the instrument after the incident. The protective owners did not want the public to know the location of the famed violin.
After the violin's return, Quint played a concert for about 50 drivers at the airport's taxi lot. The cabbies danced. Speaking to Richard G. Jones of the New York Times, Quint discussed how much he enjoyed the change of scenery. "It was so pleasing to see people dancing—that never happens. These people, they work so hard, I doubt they get a chance to get out to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center."
Known Around the Globe
Quint's performance schedule keeps him in perpetual motion. In between all of his recordings, he stays busy with live performances around the globe. During one two-month stretch in 2008, Quint played Brahms with the Santa Barbara Symphony, Beethoven with Peru's Lima Orchestra Philharmonica, Edouard Lalo with Maine's Bangor Symphony, and Max Bruch with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.
As for the future, Quint's greatest goal is to find a sense of equilibrium in his life. As he told Anna King Murdoch of the Melbourne Age, "I think goals of becoming the greatest violinist are so shallow. I grew up in such a competitive society and at Juilliard you get on the wrong track. Balance is definitely my goal."
(With Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra)William Schuman: Violin Concerto, Naxos, 2001.
Foss Plays Foss, Elysium Records, 2003.
(With Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra) Leonard Bernstein: Serenade, Facsimile, Divertimento, Naxos, 2005.
(With Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra) Ned Rorem: Flue Concerto/Violin Concerto, Naxos, 2006.
Miklos Rozsa: Sonata for Solo Violin; Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song; North Hungarian Peasant Songs and Dances, Naxos, 2007.
John Corigliano: The Red Violin Caprices, Naxos, 2008.
Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), March 18, 2008, p. C5.
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), January 21, 2005, p. G20.
Columbia Daily Tribune, June 12, 2008, p. 3 (Go!).
New York Times, May 7, 2008, p. B1; May 11, 2008, p. WK5.
"Interview: Violinist Philippe Quint," Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity,http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_14_3/feature-article-quint-interview-7-2007.html (June 17, 2008).
"Perfection after Defection," Melbourne Age,http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/perfection-after-defection/2007/08/20/1187462168380.html (June 20, 2008).
Philippe Quint Official Web site, http://www.philippequint.com (June 1, 2008).
"Quint, Philippe," Naxos.com, http://www.naxos.com/artistinfo/Philippe_Quint/1049.htm (June 16, 2008).
"Violinist Philippe Quint Values Fresh Look at His Craft and Life," Columbia Daily Tribune,http://www.columbiatribune.com/2007/Jul/20070719Go!011.asp (June 10, 2008).
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