The Subway Violinist


The violinist Philipe Quint was a child genius. At the age of 9, he was a featured performer with the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra. Later, he became a refusenik, and was finally allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1991.

He came with his parents to America, where he enrolled in the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. Currently, he’s a four-time Grammy winner, and is allowed to play a Stradivarius violin–one of fewer than 500 in existence, and only granted to the world’s best violinists by the Stradivari Society.

Quint has played with jazz and pop bands, in subways and in clubs–all rare in the still-relatively-insular world of classical music. Recently, he made his biggest departure yet–he stars in Downtown Express. It’s a film about a young man who (like Quint) is a Russian immigrant, and experiences growing pains and culture clashes when he takes his violin performances outside the box. Express is a fictional film, but many of its experiences come from Quint’s life, and his music. In fact, entire scenes of the film contain no spoken lines–just Quint and his co-star, real-life jazz musician Nellie McKay, playing music.

It’s unusual for an actor’s best moments to come while he isn’t actually speaking–but with Quint in Downtown Express, it works.

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