Monday, February 23, 2009

British Violinist Daniel Hope Returns to U.S. for February Concert

Performances at NYC’s Alice Tully Hall and Savannah Music Festival

Hope’s New Vivaldi Concertos Album for DG, Released This Month in U.S. , Is Gramophone “Editor’s Choice”

Daniel Hope’s three-concert residency this season with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMSLC) culminates on February 27 at the newly-reopened Alice Tully Hall, with the U.S. premiere of a special project that he himself conceived. The program, “War and Pieces”, is a concert blending military-themed music with poetry and texts about war and peace, including Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale in a new translation by Paul Griffiths. Hope commissioned the young German composer Jan Müller-Wieland to transcribe Beethoven’s Egmont Overture for the same jazz/cabaret-style instrumentation as the Stravinsky work. Beethoven’s overture is linked to a recitation of “Long Live War!”, a monologue from Goethe’s Egmont, to be performed by Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer (Mephisto, Out of Africa) who will also feature as narrator of The Soldier’s Tale. Hope has worked with Brandauer and other acclaimed actors – including Mia Farrow – on a number of conceptual projects (“An Audience with Beethoven” and “Dietrich Bonhoeffer – someone had to do something” among them), with the violinist placing live music performance in the context of semi-staged, theatrical readings.

Following a performance of “War and Pieces” in Germany last spring, the Wolfsburger Nachrichten reported:

“Armed with reason and emotion in equal measure, they used music and text to create deep understanding while they explored the limits and plumbed the depths of art. Brandauer and Hope demanded a lot from the audience in their version of Stravinsky’s Histore du Soldat – and they earned it. They forged every bit of their commitment and talent into a compelling weapon. There’s nothing new to the idea that Daniel Hope is a great violinist, nor that he was born to exemplify Stravinsky’s inspirational concept: during the introduction he and his instrument move about as one – visibly, audibly, consummately. … Brandauer is such a powerful actor that he matched all seven musicians eye for eye. He stared blankly into the audience, gave a quick snap of his fingers, a blink, and one quiet word before he took on the roles of Speaker, Soldier, and Devil – by the end the audience was apparently so shocked by the stillness after the storm that it paused for a few seconds that felt like minutes before the concentrated power of the evening exploded into a storm of applause and a standing ovation.”

Hope’s previous work with the CMSLC this season included a master class at the Rose Theater and a performance of an all-French program that included Messiaen’s transcendent Quartet for the End of Time and music by Boulez, Milhaud, and Ravel. The New York Times praised Hope’s “impassioned and virtuosic performance of Ravel’s Tzigane, his gypsy rhapsodizing spiraling into a frenzied whirl at the work’s conclusion.” The New York Times also selected the Messiaen performance as one of the most impressive of 2008.

Earlier this month (Feb 3), Hope’s new recording of Violin Concertos by Antonio Vivaldi was released in the U.S. on the Deutsche Grammophon label –for which he records exclusively – after receiving superb reviews across the Atlantic , including a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” citation. The new album, described by Gramophone as “Out-of-Season Vivaldi delivered with a winning blend of love and intelligence,” also features an exquisite aria from the opera Andromeda liberata, sung by Anne Sofie von Otter. Hope considers all of the concertos on the recording to be “as good as any in The Four Seasons.” His energetic back-up band on the new release is once again the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, with which Hope began his exclusive relationship with DG last season in the world-premiere recording of the original version of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and a revised version of the composer’s irresistible Octet for Strings. In celebration of the bicentennial of the composer’s birth, the New York Times recently included the album in a round-up of top Mendelssohn recordings. Alex Ross also praised the album in his recent Mendelssohn feature for the New Yorker: "Mendelssohn is thriving in other hands. The violinist Daniel Hope and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe recently made a bold, stylish recording of the Violin Concerto, alongside one of the finest modern accounts of the Octet."

Hope will return to the U.S. again early in the spring for another season as Associate Artistic Director at the Savannah Music Festival in Georgia (March 19 – April 4). Hope began his relationship with the Festival in January 2004, when he served as Artist in Residence before being appointed Associate Artistic Director in October of that year. Reviewing a number of last season’s offerings, a reporter for the Financial Times praised the “staggering breadth” of the programming, noting, “What other festival allows you to start the evening with a string quartet and finish it by listening to bluegrass over a beer?” Hope’s comments on some of the festival highlights echo this enthusiasm for the eclectic nature of its offerings:

“We have some really stunning artists and some very unique collaborations this season: Chick Corea for the first time, John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Ian Bostridge, Béla Fleck, David Finckel and Wu Han, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music . It’s such an amazing mixture of styles and quality – a real melting pot of music and musicians – and wandering from one genre to the next offers a special thrill. One of the biggest initiatives this season will be with our children’s concerts, which we expect to draw 20,000 kids! We’ve also commissioned a new work for two violins from the young New York composer Alexandra du Bois, who has written a piece for Kronos in the past, which I’ll play with Lorenza Borrani.”

March 12, 2009 marks the tenth anniversary of Yehudi Menuhin’s death. Hope was closely associated with the great violinist and humanist Menuhin, performing with him more than 60 times, including at Menuhin’s final concert. After the worldwide success of Hope’s “Tu Was” (Do Something) project, which commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Nazis’ reign of terror on “Kristallnacht”, Hope returns to Berlin . There he has persuaded the Mayor’s Office to present a concert at the Rotes Rathaus ( Berlin ’s Town Hall) on March 12. Some of Europe ’s leading political and cultural figures will be present to hear Hope perform a number of works with orchestra, in memory of Menuhin. Hope has also commissioned the French-Lebanese composer, Bechara El-Khoury, himself a protégé of Kurt Masur, to write a piece for violin and strings entitled Unfinished Journey, after Menuhin’s autobiography of the same name. The piece will receive its world premiere in Berlin on March 12. All money raised that evening will be donated to “Live Music Now”, the charity founded by Menuhin that gives young performers the chance to gain experience by performing for the underprivileged, in hospitals, prisons, and retirement homes.

Following performances in other U.S. cities, Hope returns to New York in the spring for a performance on May 2 at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. The program, “Terezín/Theresienstadt”, teams Hope with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, pianist Bengt Forsberg, and cellist Daniel Müller-Schott for an unforgettable exploration of vocal and chamber works by composers interned during World War II in the notorious Theresienstadt concentration camp. Hope will perform Erwin Schulhoff’s Sonata for violin and piano and Duo for violin and cello as well as Robert Dauber’s Serenade for violin and piano. Hope has long championed the works of composers whose lives were destroyed by the Nazis. Last year, his Deutsche Grammophon recording of music from Theresienstadt was received with great acclaim. The album, which featured liner notes by Hope and performances by von Otter, Forsberg, and baritone Christian Gerhaher, was a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” selection. Britain ’s Guardian called the recording “an eloquent act of homage which cannot fail to move,” and the disc also won France ’s coveted Diapason d’Or prize.

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