Philippe Quint / Lily Maisky

Opera Breve

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It is interesting to see Russian-American violinist Philippe Quint assert that the music on this album represents "an autobiographical journey from my recent past to the present," for some might guess after hearing it that it's something else entirely: an attempt to evoke the popular repertoire of the big violinists of a century ago. Listeners get a lot of music that has unfortunately fallen out of fashion: violin versions of opera arias (as the punning title suggests) and a Richard Strauss song, along with a "bonus track" that may be the best thing on the album: Joachim Raff's Cavatina, Op. 85/3. This work, a display not for speed but for long-breathed melody that was the stock-in-trade of the violin's stars, was well worth a revival. Another highlight is the set of arrangements of excerpts from Porgy and Bess by Jascha Heifetz, whose estimate of the value of Gershwin's music should have been followed much earlier. Elsewhere there are arrangements by Fritz Kreisler, Leopold Auer, Mischa Maisky (father of accompanist Lily Maisky, although this is not mentioned in the booklet), and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, whose outlandish fantasy on Largo al factotum from The Barber of Seville is another needed reminder that without classical music that's fun, nobody will pay attention to the serious stuff. Quint's own notes explaining the personal meanings these well-worn pieces hold for him are also worth reading, and the entire album puts you right in the middle of the classic phase of the Russian violin school of which Quint is a latter-day representative. Highly recommended.

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