The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Philippe Quint (violin), Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Kirk Trevor (conductor)
By comparison with the posthumous respect accorded to Wieniawski, Sarasate, Joachim, Viotti, Ernst and Vieuxtemps, Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1802–70) hasn’t fared particularly well in the annals of 19th-century violinist–composers. Yet in his day he was widely admired for combining the flirtatious brilliance of Paganini with the cantabile nobility of the French school. In truth, his ten published violin concertos lack Paganini’s charismatic intensity and Wieniawski’s melodic indelibility, but as long as one doesn’t expect to uncover any masterpieces along the way, Bériot’s balletic invention is thoroughly diverting.
Takako Nishizaki first alerted 21st-century ears to Bériot back in 2003 with concertos nos.1, 8 & 9 (Naxos), while a couple of years ago Albrecht Breuninger gave us nos.2, 4 & 7 (CPO). However, Philippe Quint, who already has fine Naxos recordings of Bernstein, Rorem, Schuman and Rózsa under his belt, possesses just the right kind of jewelled clarity and quicksilver agility to bring these scores fully to life. One has only to listen to the way he nonchalantly throws off the quick-fire combination of ricochet and left-hand pizzicato in the finale of no.5, or how he makes the slow movement of no.3 sound like a radiant masterpiece (it isn’t!) to know one is in the safest of hands. No matter what Bériot throws at him, as witness the athletic high jinks of no.3’s finale, Quint emerges completely unscathed and apparently thirsting for more. Sympathetic and attentive accompaniments from Kirk Trevor and excellent sound put the icing on the cake.