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Duncan Druce
Gramophone, February 2013

THE SPECIALIST’S GUIDE TO…Forgotten 19th-century violin concertos: # 8

Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1802–70), a prominent violinist and teacher, wrote prolifically for his instrument. The third of his 10 concertos includes strong dramatic gestures but its main impression is of a composer who has successfully adapted Paganini’s showy style to a more flowing, elegant idiom. Philippe Quint’s delightfully airy performance makes the most of this colourful, balletic score. © 2013 Gramophone



Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, January 2009

A Russian violinist with a French-sounding name, Philippe Quint sails through it all with unfazed aplomb. That in itself is strong recommendation to fanciers of the violin, for to navigate Bériot’s landmines unscathed, let alone with the poise and technical polish Quint manages, is quite a remarkable feat. As music, these concertos may not add up to the proverbial hill of beans, but Quint pays them respect and takes them seriously. I would very much like to hear his Grammy-nominated Naxos recording of William Schuman’s Violin Concerto [8.559083]. Here is an upcoming talent to keep an ear out for.



Robert Maxham
Fanfare, January 2009

Violinists nowadays remember Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1820–1870) as the composer of 60 concert studies that, on the way to Paganini’s caprices, season with brilliance and fluency the strength imparted by Jakob Dont’s Caprices, op. 35, and Pierre Gaviniés’s Matinées. His First, Seventh, and Ninth Concertos, in addition, held their ground in the teaching studio (as did his Scène de ballet), and Maud Powell even recorded the Seventh with piano. If, in his own time, Bériot basked more luxuriously in the spotlight as the consort (later, the husband) of the celebrated diva Maria Malibran than as a violinist, his contribution to the history of violin-playing assures him a permanent place in the affections of violinists. As the founder of the Franco-Belgian School (his Méthode inculcates the norms of his elegant style through its numerous duets more effectively than it does through its loose pedagogical logic), he combined what he made sound like Paganini’s pyrotechnic virtuosity with the era’s prevailing Romanticism. Some professed to hear Malibran’s voice singing through his violin (and presumably in his compositions) long after she had died—the two may have shared a deeper musical bond than the period’s tabloids could have divined. As a teacher, Bériot also left, in Henri Vieuxtemps, a student whose works offered transcendental “editions de luxe” (Paul Stoeving’s description) of his teacher’s and Émile Sauret, whose staggering cadenza still steals technical thunder from Paganini’s First Concerto.

Takako Nishizaki recorded the First, “Military,” the Eighth, and the Ninth Concertos for marco polo (8.220440, 11:2, and now on Naxos 8.555104), so Quint’s recording brings the number to six available (with four still left to be brought forward). The Second Concerto in B Minor, op. 32, combines Paganinian brilliance with operatic suavity and, at times, an almost carnival-inspired gaiety like that in which listeners may also revel in Giovanni Bottesini’s works for double bass. The first movement’s thematic statements in octaves and flashing passagework should be familiar even to violinists who have played only his Duos concertantes. A step backwards from Ernst and Lipinski technically, it represents a stylistic step into the future, in fact into Vieuxtemps’s violinistic language and that of Wieniawski and of the many who would follow them. While Kirk Trevor captures the orchestral part’s near bombast, Philippe Quint, who seems to have been miked at a greater distance, sounds slender though heartfelt and less brilliant than simply bright while, perhaps appropriately, projecting less passion than mannered affect. The second movement’s cantilena provides a well-crafted showcase for his highly developed stylistic sensibilities. The finale, Rondo russe, reflects Viotti’s style of violin-playing as well as Bériot’s.

The Third Concerto in B Minor, op. 44, a substantial work like the Second, lasts more than 25 minutes. As in the better-known Seventh Concerto, the soloist comes out punching in two-fisted double-stops, a more aggressive opening than that of the Second Concerto, and the showy virtuosity continues throughout the movement, including a repeated passage in sliding double-stops similar to that in Franz von Vecsey’s Caprice No. 1, “The Wind.” The slow movement’s built around a declamatory middle section unusual for its rhetorical ardor. The finale, like Quint’s performance, suggests quicksilver, with a rapid-fire closing passage that hints at things to come in the finale of Vieuxtemps’s Fourth Concerto.

Though the Fifth Concerto—the program’s first in a major key (D)—lasts only half a minute longer than a quarter hour, it begins with a long, dramatic orchestral introduction. The soloist’s entry with ingratiating salon-like melodies exemplifies the sudden turns from the dramatic to the charming, from the virtuosic to the singing, that stud these pieces—and, in fact, Bériot’s works in general. The slow movement serves as little more than a slender bridge to the virtuosic finale, which opens portentously in the manner of a first movement, though it’s destined to expire after only about four minutes.

Despite the intervening years (Nishizaki recorded Concertos No. 1, 8, and 9 in 1986 and Quint recorded Nos. 2, 3, and 5 in 2006), the engineering seems to have a similar focus, placing the soloists in a natural balance with the orchestra. Quint’s tone seems a bit sweeter and a bit more slender, but he’s hardly less aggressive in the Bériot’s flashy passages.

Bériot’s music may smack too much of drawing-room refinement for the most serious general listeners, although admirers and detractors should agree that its passions never overstep the bounds of decorum and its darker clouds invariably give way to sunshine before dampening anyone’s spirits. For violinists and aficionados, however, these concertos, in Quint’s and Trevor’s sympathetic performances, will explain a great deal about the development of the art of violin-playing and the style of the virtuoso concerto throughout the coming century. Urgently recommended to those not hostile to the style or content.



Haller
American Record Guide, November 2008

In his own time Charles Auguste de Beriot was considered by many the spiritual heir to the great Paganini, both as soloist and composer. Though nurtured in the Paris style of Viotti, Rode, and Kreutzer, he soon put aside the severity of style and breadth of tone of those masters, reveling in a flamboyance and sharply honed attack that were quite beyond his contemporaries and incorporating all of the effects made popular by Paganini—harmonics, pizzicatos, arpeggios, and multiple stops—as well as new techniques that were entirely his own. In part because of his unaccustomed accuracy of intonation and facility of execution, Beriot became a great favorite not only in Paris but all across Europe. Revered by all who heard him, Beriot left a considerable legacy not only in his own compositions but—perhaps more important— in the burgeoning Franco-Belgian school that would give us such respected names as Vieuxtemps and Ysaye.

Grove’s and Baker are agreed that Beriot wrote seven violin concertos; more recent scholarship has extended that number to 10. Takako Nishizaki offered 1, 8, and 9 on Marco Polo (Jan/Feb 1988; reissued on Naxos, May/June 2003), while Laurent Albrecht Breuninger set down 2 with 4 and 7 for CPO (Jan/Feb 2007). No. 6 was offered along with 2 in the second of two 4-LP sets released some years ago by Belgian EMI that most students of violin technique are likely to have on their shelf, while the first set included 5 and 7. Thus only No. 10 remains to be recorded, and we might hope for an up-to-date recording of the brief Scène de Ballet once on a Varese Sarabande LP as well.

Certainly the Second Concerto clearly establishes the kinship between Beriot and Paganini, often calling for a wonderful clash of Janissary color from cymbals, bass drum, and triangle. The dolce second subject could be Paganini too, or perhaps Spohr. This cantabile melody Quint embraces with singing tone—likewise the rapt Andantino—whereas Breuninger draws out the musical line almost to the breaking point. It flows a lot more winningly with Quint; and while there’s no question Breuninger’s hairtrigger intensity in the prevailing pyrotechnic display would have me on my feet in concert, he fairly tears up the peapatch at maybe twice Quint’s tempo. I suspect Quint’s unquestioned mastery of some tremendously difficult passagework will wear far better on repeated hearings. Also, Breuninger interposes his own cadenza near the close of the first movement that goes on at some length and strays somewhat from the expressed harmonic base. The final Rondo Russe sounds no more Slavic than Lalo’s Concerto Russe—indeed, this bright, high-stepping exercise might suggest the Tsar’s horsemen stepping out rather than the dances of the peasantry. Quint finds more humor in the piece, while Breuninger at a rather brisk pace comes across as gawky in the whimsical second subject next to Quint’s breezy stride. Edith Volckaert in the EMI set displays rock-solid musicianship without great flair or theatrics and also does without the cadenza in I.

The Third Concerto pursues a fairly extended course, with much use of multiple stopping, left-hand pizzicatos, and what the notes characterize as “ostentatious” harmonics (nowhere near as flashy as Paganini). Quint’s singing line is once more called on in the brief Adagio, and the Janissary band returns for the final Rondo, which often lopes along in good-humored fashion rather like Suppe. Here Quint displays a winning light touch and often seems to be improvising on the spot.

The Fifth Concerto is a far slighter affair, with much of the opening movement basically recycled as the finale, and Quint’s confident fiddling far outclasses Marcel Debot’s more cautious approach in the EMI box.

The Slovak players under Kirk Trevor offer sturdy support, and balances between soloist and orchestra are entirely apt. Don’t let the low cost fool you: this is an excellent addition to the library for anyone interested in the art of the violin.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, November 2008

This is the second in the Naxos survey of the violin concertos of de Bériot. The first (8.555104) was recorded as far back as 1986 in which Takako Nishizaki and the RTBF Symphony Orchestra, Brussels under Alfred Walter performed Concertos 1, 8 and 9. This latest volume (8.570360) was taped a full twenty years later in rather differing circumstances—the Concert Hall of Slovak Radio, Bratislava with the local orchestra and their frequent guest conductor Kirk Trevor accompanying Philippe Quint. 

Once again you write off de Bériot at your peril. All three works marry Paganinian impulses with bel canto lyricism and are adeptly orchestrated. The B minor [Concerto] begins in extrovert fashion with some bumptiously confident percussion to the fore. The soloist’s elegant figuration also has time to take in refined songfulness—fine dolce and raptly romanticized dynamic variance before the first movement ends in a characteristic flurry of octaves. One would expect the central movement to be lyric and warm and it is—albeit less distinctive than the opening. The finale is sparkling but not quite the Rondo russe one was expecting from the movement’s indication; more cosmopolitan than Russian.

The E minor Concerto Op.44 followed seven years later, being completed in 1842. It opens in Sturm and Drang high dudgeon but the tempests are soon dissipated and virtuosity filters into the concerto’s mechanics—along with plenty of legato lyricism for the soloist. I was greatly taken by the Adagio’s pizzicati accompaniment to the alternately lyric and assertive solo themes—but even more so by the heart-stoppingly lovely reprise of the theme. The cocky Rondo finale is not untypical of the composer and the barrage of fireworks—the arabesques, position changes – are augmented by the suave leads offered by the soloist. If you’ve not encountered one of de Bériot’s concertos I’d go for this one first.

The Fifth Concerto in D major is by some way the most compact of the three presented here. But in a quarter of an hour a lot gets packed in. This time he opens grandly, presidentially – the confidence not quite smug but not so far off. But we are still in Paganini’s orbit and the solo violin offers a rather perkier, jauntier viewpoint than the more stringent and draconian statements of the orchestra. It makes for fruitful contrast and tension not least when the solo violin has been vested with a degree of tongue-in-cheek so very much at odds with the surrounding orchestration.

Philippe Quint leads a very merry dance here. He plays with real control and command—not a heavy tone but flexible, and capable of considerable finesse in the many lyric episodes he has to integrate into the fabric of the scores. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra usually play very well for Kirk Trevor and they do so again and they’ve been warmly recorded in their home hall. If you have a penchant for fireworks and songful concertos of the Paganinian era then these will come as welcome visitors to your deck.



Duncan Druce
Gramophone, November 2008

Flights of fancy meet elegant touches: the unknown Bériot is worth a hearing

Charles de Bériot, one of the most prominent 19th-century violinist, composed prolifically for his instrument, yet his music has suffered a more complete eclipse than that of such contemporaries as Paganini and Vieuxtemps. So one can be grateful to Naxos for turning our attention to his 10 concertos (this is the second issue in a series). These three works, dating from the 1830s and ‘40s, show Bériot successfully integrating showy, Paganini-style flights of fancy into a softer, more elegant idiom. In the Second Concerto the melodies retain an element of classical formality; with our knowledge of Tchaikovsky and Khachaturian we may find the Russian finale a little bit tame. The Third Concerto, with its unexpected opening timpani solo, attempts a more dramatic manner; this work is notable for several anticipations of violin figuration in the Mendelssohn Concerto. Its most successful movement is the finale, where dramatic conflict is abandoned in favour of a succession of fanciful, balletic ideas. This more playful violinistic style continues in the Fifth Concerto, contrasting with impressively full, sonorous orchestral writing. The Slovak players make the most of this, and in all the concertos appear to relish every opportunity provided by such unfamiliar repertoire. Philippe Quint enjoys himself, too: the flashy passagework holds no terrors for him and he’s equally at home with Bériot’s sweet, graceful melodic writing. The composer, however, would have urged him to “employ vibrato only when the dramatic action compels it” (Méthode de violon, 1858). This isn’t profound music but it’s appealing and full of interest, and very well served here.



Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, August 2008

This excellent Belgian Romantic composer is sadly neglected in America, with only Takako Nishizaki's earlier recording (of concertos 1, 8 and 9, Naxos 8.555104) to represent him. He was a child prodigy who studied with Viotti, performing the master's music in public at age nine! De Beriot wrote brilliantly for his instrument, with elements of Paganini-style bravura combined with French elegance in phrasing. The performances are smashingly good, if only the recording engineer had sought to bring forward Philippe Quint's superb playing. The real star here is the soloist, but there is a woeful lack of violin presence on the disc.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2008

Charles-Auguste de Beriot was born in Belgium in 1802 into a wealthy family, but was orphaned at the age of nine. Well schooled in music, he dedicated his late teenage years to self-tuition, before embarking on a life as a virtuoso soloist. His life with the celebrated diva, Maria Malibran, ended in tragedy with her death following a riding accident, the shock causing his touring days to come to an end in his thirties. From therein he dedicated much of his time to teaching at the Brussels Conservatoire, and was responsible for creating the much talked of Franco-Belgian school of violin playing. It was a style that married the virtuosity of Paganini and Viotti with the more singing quality of the French violinists that Beriot heard during his many years spent in France. His ten concertos also reflect this style, the melodic line more finely spun than Paganini, and if the three on the present disc, which date from 1835 -1848, do not contain the ‘catchy’ tunes of the Italian composer, the orchestral parts are of greater substance and show tasteful use of the instruments. For the soloist they Charles-Auguste de Beriot’s violin concertos require considerable left-hand agility from the soloist, and as the technical fireworks are less splashy than in the Paganini concertos, there is nowhere for the soloist to hide. This plays straight into the hands of the Russian-born violinist, Philippe Quint, his impeccable intonation handling those long passages of double-stopping with an almost unbelievable accuracy. Sample the high-jinks in the finale of the Third concerto (track 6), as Beriot sends the solo line chasing around the violin. But Quint is no shabby showman, much of his technical brilliance finding him playing with a lightness of touch that does not throw the music in your face. The Slovak Radio Symphony is in fine form under the direction of the American, Kirk Trevor, and reflect Quint in their avoidance of overstatement. The balance between soloist and orchestra is ideal, the recording most pleasing. Highly recommended .



Julian Haylock
The Strad, June 2008

By comparison with the posthumous respect accorded to Wienawski, 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 21 st-century ears to Bériot back in 2003 with concertos nos.1, 8 and 9 (Naxos), and a couple of years ago Albrecht Breuninger gave us nos.2, 4 and 7 (CPO). However, Philippe Quint, who already has fine Naxos recordings of Bernstein, Rorem, Schuman and Rozsa 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 that 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.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2008

By the time Charles-Auguste de Beriot was nine he had lost both of his wealthy parents. By that time he had already shown himself as a prodigiously gifted violinist, and though largely self-taught, he was to become the great virtuoso in the first half of the 19th century. Causing a sensation wherever he appeared, his early life was coloured by a relationship with Maria Malibran, the most famous diva of the 19th century, but already married. Her young death caused him much distress, though it was to be a rather sobering effect on his extroverted lifestyle. Though he was overlooked for some influential positions, he was later to become the professor of violin in Brussels where he established a new school of violin playing. Turning his hand to composition in the style of Paganini, his works were neither profound nor particularly distinguished, but presented the soloist with a feast of violin acrobatics. They were written over the period 1835-48 in the first flush of the Romantic era, and are full of high spirits, the short central movements lowering the temperature of each work. They were obviously intended for Beriot’s performance, the technical demands beyond other soloists. Here superbly played by Philippe Quint, an American originally from St Petersburg, he simply brushes aside Beriot’s challenges as if they hardly exist, and I am particularly pleased he does not hurtle into the fast passages. That gives us the advantage of hearing every note however black the page. Just turn to track 6, the finale of the Third concerto, to sample some hair-raising acrobatics. The orchestra is only asked to provide a relatively uneventful backdrop, the Slovak Radio Symphony doing everything required under the baton of the British-born conductor, Kirk Trevor. The sound is perfectly balanced and obtains an infinite amount of detail. Recommended without hesitation.






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