Touring classical violinist to play in Wichita

There's a reason classical music soloists aren't often compared to rock musicians. They mostly play different instruments; classical musicians rarely go on the kind of cross-country marathons endured by country bands, rockers and "American Idol" finalists.

Not so Philippe Quint. The Russia-born, Juilliard-trained classical violinist will today conclude a 16-concert, 24-day tour across America with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra from South Africa. He's played the Korngold and the Tchaikovsky violin concertos, alternating night after night.

After a couple of days to recover, Quint will report this week to the Wichita Symphony Orchestra to prepare for performances of Ravel's "Tzigane" and John Corigliano's "The Red Violin: Chaconne." Daniel Hege will conduct the concerts, which will open with Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3 and conclude with the Symphony No. 4 by Brahms.

When reached by phone on Feb. 25, Quint was in the middle of the tour with the Cape Philharmonic, killing time in a hotel room in Kansas City awaiting a concert at the Folly Theatre.

"It's a little bit like a rock band — travel in the morning and performing at night in a different place every day," Quint said. "Tomorrow is Iowa, and afterwards I think is Nebraska. To be honest with you, I'm not sure where I am or where I wake up. I cannot remember my hotel room number because every day is different."

Despite the dawn-to-midnight schedule and a focus on the concertos he's playing on tour, Quint was keen to arrive in Wichita to perform.

Ravel's "Tzigane" is one of the great showpieces for violin, a combination of Hungarian gypsy passion and supreme virtuosity that performers and audiences have embraced since the work's first performance in 1924.

"There are a lot of elements that he incorporated from Paganini (the great Italian violin virtuoso of the 1800s), such as double harmonics, double stops, left-hand pizzicato (plucking), some very challenging things for anybody," Quint explained.

Ravel was inspired to give his new piece a gypsy sound after hearing a concert played by the Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi. The composer incorporated showmanship naturally into the work, which fueled popularity for the piece that has never diminished, especially among concert violinists.

"Any virtuoso work that requires such enormous technical feats requires a tremendous amount of stamina," Quint said. "It is like preparing for the Olympic Games — you have to slowly train every muscle. With 'Tzigane' I have performed it many times so I think I have figured out how to get around all the technical challenges.

"Mostly I try to concentrate on the interpretive ideal, which is bringing out the flair and the passion of 'tzigane' (a French word for 'gypsy'), which is what the music is about."

Paired with the fiery Ravel will be the sublime, romantic "Chaconne" from "The Red Violin" by American composer Corigliano. The "Chaconne" and the full-length violin concerto from which it comes were in turn derived from music Corigliano composed for the 1998 film "The Red Violin."

"Chaconne" has received a good number of performances over the past decade, starting with popular original recordings made by American violinist Joshua Bell — enough to give the piece almost standard-repertory status.

"I am thrilled that violinists have this new, wonderful violin concerto to work with," Quint said. "Corigliano's writing is very complex and at the same time very interesting, very exciting."

If you go

Wichita Symphony Orchestra

What: Classics concert featuring music by Beethoven, Ravel, Corigliano and Brahms, Philippe Quint, violin; Daniel Hege, conductor

Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. March 13

How much: Tickets $20-$44; discounts available. For more information, visit www.wso.org or call 316-267-7658.