World Premiere of John Corigliano’s Red Violin Caprices performed by acclaimed violinist Philippe Quint

John CORIGLIANO

The Red Violin Caprices; Violin Sonata

Virgil THOMSON

Three Portraits, arr. Samuel Dushkin; Five Ladies; Eight Portraits

Philippe Quint, violin; William Wolfram, piano

Naxos releases the world premiere recording of John Corigliano’s The Red Violin Caprices , featuring Grammy®-nominated violinist Philippe Quint and pianist William Wolfram. This much-anticipated release by Quint-who earned a Grammy® nomination in 2001 for his Naxos debut recording of William Schuman’s Violin Concerto-features John Corigliano’s 2002 caprices, reworked from the soundtrack of The Red Violin, for which the composer won a 1999 Academy Award. The disc also features Virgil Thomson’s series of ‘portraits’ for solo violin and piano: the 1947 version of Three Portraits arranged by Samuel Dushkin, Five Ladies (1930), and Eight Portraits.

John Corigliano revisited his score for the 1997 film The Red Violin several times. The Red Violin Caprices make strenuous technical demands of the performer. The opening Theme is identical to that of the earlier Chaconne (Naxos 8559306); the First Variation is reminiscent of Paganini in its virtuosity; and the Second Variation features a sustained exploration of multi-stopping and vividly incisive passagework. The Third Variation is more restrained, with a folk-like feeling, which the Fourth Variation expands into an “aria” of rhetorical eloquence; finally, the Fifth Variation is a brilliant rhythmic conclusion to the cycle.

Now a staple in 20th century violin literature, Corigliano’s Violin Sonata (1962-63) is among his earliest acknowledged works. Originally titled Duo (because it treats the instruments as equal partners), the Violin Sonata was selected from 100 entries at the 1964 Spoleto Festival Competition for the Creative Arts by a panel of judges that included Walter Piston, Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, Gardner Read, and Charles Wadsworth. It received its premiere at Spoleto with violinist Yoko Matsuda and pianist Charles Wadsworth. In 1965, the work received its American premiere with violinist Roman Totenberg and pianist Carol Rand. Shortly after, the composer’s father (and concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic for over 20 years), John Corigliano Sr., and pianist Ralph Votapek performed the work in New York; they later recorded it for the CRI label. The Sonata is in four movements (Allegro, Andantino, Lento and Allegro), of which the composer has written: “The Sonata … is for the most part a tonal work although it incorporates non-tonal and poly-tonal sections within it as well as other 20th century harmonic, rhythmic and constructional techniques. The listener will recognize the work as a product of an American writer although this is more the result of an American writing music than writing ‘American’ music-a second-nature, unconscious action on the composer’s part.”

From a very different musical background, and representing a very different aesthetic, Virgil Thomson displays a skillful assimilation of Gallic clarity and an American-derived nostalgia, with frequent use of hymn tunes and traditional songs. Thomson was a master of the miniature, and his ‘Portraits’ testify to his ability to capture the essence of a personality in music. The ‘Portraits’ date from the late ’20s until just before Thomson’s death. Many were published in seven volumes of Portraits for Piano Solo (1948-83), but he also composed numerous pieces for ensembles and orchestra, including the three collections on this release. The Three Portraits originated as piano pieces written in 1940 and were arranged for violin and piano by Samuel Dushkin in 1947. The collection of Five Ladies began as individual pieces written in the 1930s, and were only published in their present form in 1983. The Eight Portraits for solo violin were written from 1928-40 and are Thomson’s most substantial such collection outside those for solo piano.

In 1998 Philippe Quint won the Juilliard Competition for his captivating performance of Korngold’s Violin Concerto with conductor Kurt Masur. His recent recording of the concerto with Mexico’s Symphonica de Mineria and conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto is scheduled for a winter release; in June, he returns to the studio to record the complete violin works of Paganini, arranged by Fritz Kreisler, both for Naxos. Highlights this season include a Weill Hall recital in September and a debut with Weimar Staskapelle in Germany. The release of the Corigliano/Thomson CD is the culmination of a busy year for the St. Petersburg-born violinist, now living in New York. Philippe Quint’s 2007 appearances with international orchestras on tours in Australia, South Africa, Italy and France and throughout the U.S. garnered much praise and critical acclaim. The Durban Daily News commended his “elusive magnetism called star quality,” while his “bravura” interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto had the Cape Times marking Philippe Quint out as “undoubtedly a name for the future.” Following a recent U.K. performance of the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto, the Guardian praised Quint’s’ “touching tenderness” and “Gypsy flamboyance … vividly evoking the style of Pablo Sarasate.” For updated information on Philippe Quint’s upcoming performances and recordings please visit www.philippequint.com.