During the 2005-2006 season, the Akron Symphony was led by candidates for their music director gig. These auditions were all musically satisfying. You’d expect that, since any finalist in such a selection process is going to have pretty good chops.
The October 2005 concert was given a further boost by the presence of a rising young violin soloist. He played Mozart’s Turkish concerto (#5) with a heady level of musicianship and precision.
This impressive fiddler was Philippe Quint. Since then his career has continued to blossom. In 2009, he recorded the Korngold concerto; the CD hit the Billboard classical top 20 in its first week on the market. He’s been nominated for 4 Grammy awards. This month (March 2012) he’ll release a recording of the Mendelssohn and Bruch concertos, and Beethovenâ€™s Romances.
It’s also taken an intriguing new trajectory. Quint has become an actor – at least for one film. He’ll reach the big screen in New York next month (April 2012).
Downtown Express turns on the tension between the tux-and-tails world of the concert hall and the blue jeans attitude of popular music. Philippe Quint plays Sasha, a Russian violinist on scholarship to Julliard. From the time Sasha was a child, his traditional cellist father has been grooming him for a career on the concert stage.
But Sasha finds himself drawn to the gritty, raucous attitudes and rhythms of New York’s downtown music scene. Then he meets Ramona, a bohemian singer-songwriter. Soon he is a part of her band – and her life.
Afraid of his father’s censure, for a time Sasha tries to live both lives, careening between concert violinist and pop fiddler. A crucial recital looms. Which path will he choose?
“I was instantly swept away by this story because it mirrored my life,” says Quint. He was born in Russia and defected to the US as a teenager, to avoid army service in Russia and to study with Juilliardâ€™s Dorothy DeLay.
Many musicians have appeared in films as themselves or as famous virtuosi of the past. However, it’s not at all common for a classical musician to play a fictional character. To prepare for his role, Quint studied with producer and acting coach Sondra Lee.
Downtown Express is based on a true story. It was filmed on location in New York in the summer of 2010. Singer-songwriter Nellie McKay plays Ramona, the street musician. The director is David Grubin and the producer is Michael Hausman (Brokeback Mountain, Gangs of New York, Amadeus).
Does this mean an end to Quint’s concert hall careeer? Not likely, given the success that’s been bringing him. In addition to his CD release, just this year (2012) he’s played concerts in Bochum, Germany; Mons, Belgium; Sofia, Bulgaria; Mexico City; and in Santa Monica, El Paso, Brevard, and Harrisburg. Later this month (March 2012) he’ll head for Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
Downtown Express opens on 20 April at the QUAD Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, New York.
Downtown Express (official public website)
Downtown Express at the Internet Movie Database (IMDB)
Philippe Quint at Arts Management Group
This is an update of an article first published in WKSU Classical on 2 February 2011.