Philippe Quint, violinist
Why is this an exciting time to be a string player?
Music is the language of the soul, a path to creativity, an instigator of imagination. It’s math—it’s science. The world on four strings had always been an exciting journey for me. I consider myself very lucky to be a musician and artist. Being a violinist in particular has many perks: For one, playing on the 1708 “Ruby” Antonio Stradivari violin, which is on loan to me through the Stradivari Society of Chicago, is a little like having your own personal miracle in a violin case. Every day I open the case and can hardly believe the incredible work of art that is in my hands.
I feel we are experiencing a renaissance of string playing. The level is incredibly high. There are many great performers with unique voices.
What kinds of skills do you think a string player needs in order to succeed in the 21st century?
The music world is full of opportunities. Whether your life path will take you toward a career as a soloist, chamber musician, an orchestra player, or all of the above, what is important is to consider yourself an ambassador for your craft and an advocate for what you love. In a world where classical music isn’t always understood with wider audiences, it is a great responsibility for all of us to make sure that we [inspire] the next generation of concert goers that are anxious and willing to experience the power of classical music.
What do you think audiences expect from string performers today?
Audiences vary in their preferences so I would concentrate more on what string players can expect of themselves to bring to those audiences. Quality of playing is essential, memorization of the music is particularly important to develop during early years, but in the future it is important to realize that playing correct notes and following the dynamics is only the beginning. It is the musical impact we must leave the audience with—conveying the message of the composer through our own unique ways.
How do you expect string playing to change over the course of the next 20 years? What changes would you like to see?
I see that the world of classical music and string playing is successfully readjusting to the new world. We are seeing many artists with vision and thoughtful programming that sometimes incorporates visual effects. More of that is forthcoming. In terms of actual technical aspects of playing, we will be seeing artists and composers seeking new effects and new sounds, merging genres, compositions infused with political or personal messages. My hope is that the tradition of string performers who were also accomplished composers will come back. Also I hope the ability to improvise onstage will be more encouraged and appreciated.
What concerns do you have for the future of string playing?
My concerns have mostly to do with teaching methods and parenting. To elaborate on both subjects: I have been giving master classes regularly around the world for almost two decades now. What I frequently encounter is a student who is struggling with musical material due to the wrong path suggested by a teacher or mentor. The second issue is overly ambitious “stage parents,” who are infusing their children with the fear of making mistakes or of not being perfect. These are very serious concerns that I am now constantly addressing in my work with students and conversations with their teachers and parents.
What’s the best piece of career (or musical) advice you ever got?
Isaac Stern’s suggestion: To always look for a meaning behind every note.
If you wanted someone to fall in love with string music, what’s the first recording you would recommend?
This is very important: proper introduction to classical [string] music. Pretty much any symphony by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, or Brahms. Hitting a newcomer with Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony might be too much to start this journey, however I have also met folks that were so impacted by Shostakovich as first-time listeners that once again it all comes down to an individual’s taste and personal affinity for a particular style.
What is your primary instrument, bow, and what type(s) of strings do you use?
Primary violin: The 1708 “Ruby” Stradivari
Bow: Francois Peccatte
Strings: I have used, for many years now, Thomastik-Infeld Vision Titanium Solo with a Jargar E string.