This “first” adds more luster to the 90th.
“We’ve introduced many incredible violinists,” said Peter Jaffe, starting his 22nd year as conductor of the now 90-year-old Stockton Symphony. “Philippe is one we haven’t.
“I’ve known him ever since he was a wunderkind prodigy and enormous talent. He’s matured into the national stratosphere. I thought this would be a really celebratory thing to do.”
Jaffe was Philippe Quint’s first conductor when the Russia-born teenager arrived in America 25 years ago.
“I have many special feelings,” said Quint, an elite international musician who plays an equally distinguished Stradivarius violin. “They mostly have to do with Peter.
“I remember very well how unbelievably energetic and incredibly inspiring he was. He’s a wonderful musician who loves to communicate his love of music to the people. So, it’s not so surprising the orchestra is blossoming and remaining so strong.”
That strength extends back to Manlio Silva’s 1926 formation of the Stockton Symphony, still the third-longest continuously operating California orchestra after those in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
So, on Saturday Jaffe guides 70 musicians — plus the estimable Quint — into the Stockton Symphony’s 90th season with a two-hour concert at San Joaquin Delta College’s Atherton Auditorium.
In addition to Quint’s talent — he and Jaffe also share supportive senses of humor — Jaffe has created an appropriately decorative touch:
“A Symphonic Birthday,” an eight-minute composition that “interposes” melodies from the standard “Happy Birthday” with familiar classical selections.
After opening with the additional formality of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Jaffe, 60, conducts “Estancia Suite” by Argentina’s Alberto Ginasteria (1916-63).
Then, of course, there’s the five-movement “Symphonie espagnole” (1874) by France’s Edouard Lalo (1823-92).
Quint, on the way to New York’s Juilliard School, performed one of its movements as a 17-year-old American newcomer at the Aspen (Colorado) Music Camp & School. Jaffe was the conductor.
“Funny enough,” said Quint, a native of Soviet-era Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), said from his residence in Manhattan, New York. “We (he and Jaffe) performed the piece together 25 years ago now. It’s wonderful.
“Maybe not as popular as (Pyotr Ilyich) Tchaikovsky, (Johannes) Brahms and (Felix) Mendelssohn, but it’s very unique. The audience will be swept away by its incredible melodies. The entire piece is a great symphonic dialogue. A wonderful way to communicate. It’s a little bit like a play.”
Quint does that, playing an 18th-century Stradivarius, one of 10 instruments from a period when the Italy’s Antonio Stradivarius (1644-1737) family handmade just 1,000. Quint said only “550 to 600” still exist.
He said living with (and through) such a classic instrument is like meeting a “new person with new energy and a different face and personality. Basically you have to slightly adjust. You don’t know what the person’s gonna throw at you. Getting to know it is very musically like a marriage. The violin says, ‘I don’t want to be played by you. This violin isn’t responding to me.’ ”
It was the opposite for Quint. He and his 1708 “Ruby” Stradivarius remain happily wedded.
While growing up in the Soviet (communist) period, “arts and the classics were always present.” Mother Lora Kvint remains a “superstar” composer in Russian film and theater musicals. He declined to mention his father, but an uncle (Misha) is a cello player.
Now 42, he made his symphonic debut at 9 after adopting the instrument at 4. He was tutored by Andrei Korsakov while attending the Moscow’s Special Music School for the Gifted. He earned two degrees at Juilliard, guided mostly by Dorothy Delay.
Quint’s been nominated twice for Grammy Awards and released 14 recordings, including “Bach XXI” in 2015.
Jaffe’s proud of his developmental relationship with Quint — and the Stockton Symphony.
“Whenever there’s an anniversary like this, you look back and forward,” he said noting that Silva (1893-1958), an Italian immigrant and pharmacist, had formed a smaller “precursor” group in Stockton prior to inaugurating the full 20-member symphony. “It’s an incredible legend. We’ve had a brilliant history.”
That includes 27 years orchestrated by Kyung-Soo Won prior to Jaffe’s arrival.
“This is a moment of local pride,” Jaffe said. “It’s not just a local organization beating its chest: ‘Look what all we’ve done.’ It’s a tribute to the whole community. I just love working with these wonderful musicians.”
On Saturday, that includes Quint. Jaffe summed up that long-awaited reconnection succinctly:
“He’s a world-class, top-notch violinist. The whole package of virtuosity with fingers to burn. The admiration definitely is mutual.”
— Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord.