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Daniel HOPE: “For Seasons” = Music of VIVALDI, BACH, RAMEAU, RICHTER, TCHAIKOWSKY, BRAHMS – Daniel Hope (v.)/Zürcher Kammerorchester – DGG

Very creative and highly entertaining but unusual!

Daniel Hope, “For Seasons” [Track List follows] – Daniel Hope, violin/Zürcher Kammerorchester – Deutsche Grammaphon DGG 479 6922, 79:33, (3/03/2017) ****:

The first – and certainly not even the most captivating – thing that catches your attention about this wonderfully eclectic and entertaining collection from violinist Daniel Hope is his arrangement (a “reimagining”) of Vivaldi’s iconic The Four Seasons. Is The Four Seasons simultaneously the best known and most potentially boring work for violin and orchestra ever?  I have heard some say so and I think certainly it can be (boring, that is) but not in this dynamic and even aggressive rendition by Hope. Tempos are extreme, rallantandos and accelerandos are inserted where they do not exist in the original and volumes are exaggerated for effect. Daniel Hope’s playing is spectacular throughout and he makes a strong case to show that just a little (or a lot) bit of liberties taken with this violin icon can bring new excitement and daring to the work. Hope’s rendition will frustrate the purist but would arguably thrill audiences and the uninitiated listener.

This whole album is a collection of relatively short works which, collectively, depict or pay homage to the seasons; just as Vivaldi intended. The selections are stylistically all over the map and chronological spectrum. In the ‘easy listening’ or jazzy vein, nearly everyone will recognize Kurt Weill’s September Song and, of course, a somewhat jazz inspired iteration of “Amazing Grace.” In the classical melodies and snippets realm, the selections by Rameau, Tchaikvosky, Schumann and Brahms are played with both great sensitivity and creativity, given the unusual arrangements in this album.

The inclusion of “April Fourteenth” by experimental rocker Aphex Twin, aka Richard David James, is surprising but this is a beautiful melody that fits in perfectly. This is also true for the orchestra leader and film composer Max Richter. His Spring 1 is but a brief example of his creation of many scores and performances that are unashamedly lush and, occasionally, mysterious.

The one name that was totally new for me from this collection was Chilly Gonzales. Gonzales is a jazz pianist and composer and the two selections shared here (‘The Doubts of August” and Wintermezzo) are engaging in rather the same way that Kurt Weill is. Not my favorite style, but these charming little tunes work within the album’s theme quite well.

I was intrigued to learn through the booklet notes (a welcome addition that DGG continues to do very well while many labels have gone online only or stopped altogether) that Hope also found or chose a different piece of visual art, shown in the booklet, that matches the tone of each piece of music. A very interesting concept.

This album – and much of Daniel Hope’s music – is aimed at the wide, general audience; not at all ‘stuffy’ and elitist. Bravo to him for being a superb violinist with this approach as his vision. Therefore, I believe just about anyone would like this album. I loved it!

TrackList:
1-12  Antonio Vivaldi  The Four Seasons
   13  Nils Frahm  Ambre
   14  Jean-Philippe Rameau  Danse des Sauvages

   15  Max Richter  Spring 1
   16  Aphex Twin  Avril 14th
   17  Traditional  Amazing Grace
   18  Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky  June
   19  Robert Schumann  Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen
   20  Chilly Gonzales  Les doutes d’août
   21  Kurt Weill  September Song
   22  Johann Mechior Molter  Concerto Pastorale
   23  Johann Sebastian Bach  Aria, “Bete aber auch dabei”
   24  Chilly Gonzales  Wintermezzo
   25   Johannes Brahms  Guten Abend, gut Nacht

—Daniel Coombs

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