Daniel Hope, “Spheres” = Daniel Hope, violin/various soloists/Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin/Rundfunkchor Berlin/Simon Halsey – DGG B0017999-02, 74:48 (TrackList follows) ****:
Daniel Hope is a very fine violinist who is also a very astute and clever marketing man. His recordings, all for DGG, have a very well-structured program and a sound that relies on a decidedly mass-market friendly feel.
For example, his delightful “Air – a Baroque Journey” (DGG 0013993-02) or his Joseph Joachim tribute “The Romantic Violinist” are but two examples of his ability to put together beautiful, accessible collections that are easy to swallow and pose little to no risk for the uninitiated listener. And – to a very large extent – what’s wrong with that?
So here comes this fairly substantial collection of mostly “modern” music (save the Bach and, arguably, the Fauré). No fear to those who don’t like trying music by people you may have never heard of. This is all delightfully restful, pretty and nearly meditative stuff. The very nature of this program is that the selections do sort of flow together and the styles change ever so subtly from one to the next while there are many moments that will cause you to stop and say, “Wow. What is this?”
In fact, one of the greatest pleasures in this beautiful collection is the many moments of discovery. For me, I had no idea who Johann Paul Von Westhoff was. The opening work by this late 17th century performer-composer is just hypnotic. I also was positively intrigued with the works by Ludovico Einaudi, a contemporary Italian pianist-composer. The first work: “I giorni” is positively lovely.
Lera Auerbach is also another very nice discovery. The pianist and composer has a gift for very simple unadorned melody as the extracts from her 24 Preludes attest. One of Daniel Hope’s frequent collaborators is Max Richter. The versatile Brit has made a name in symphony, theater and film. The brief but attention-getting Berlin by Overnight is a good example.
The music by Elena Kats-Chernin, Alex Baranowski, Aleksey Igudsman, Gabriel Prokofiev (whose work gives the album its title) and Karsten Gundermann is all quite attractive in its own right as well. Even the selections in this collection that are pretty well known at this point – such as those by Philip Glass, Karl Jenkins, Arvo Pärt and Michael Nyman – contribute to the whole in a most appealing way. The one work that seemed to me to provide an element of mystery and tension is Spheres by Gabriel Prokofiev, heard here in its premiere recording.
The performances here are all just wonderful. There really aren’t any showy pyrotechnical moments here (there aren’t supposed to be) and, in some selections, Daniel Hope’s beautiful, languid playing isn’t even at the forefront. One could say the same about the music itself. Not one of the numerous composers is really being showcased at all here. The effect is what matters. Eighteen fairly short, very pretty and occasionally attention-getting miniatures form a nearly seamless mélange of tranquility.
I enjoyed this a great deal. This may be my favorite Daniel Hope album. You can just put this on, sit back and enjoy. All music should strive for this.
- Imitazione delle campane (Johann Paul Von Westhoff)
- I giorni (Ludovico Einaudi)
- Echorus (Philip Glass)
- Cantique de Jean Racine (Gabriel Faure)
- Adagio sognando from 24 Preludes (Lera Auerbach)
- Fratres (Arvo Pärt)
- Eliza from “Wild Swans” (Elena Kats-Chernin)
- Musica universalis (Alex Baranowski)
- Spheres (Gabriel Prokofiev)
- Berlin by Overnight (Max Richter)
- Biafra (Alex Baranowski)
- Lento (Aleksey Igudesman)
- Passagio (Ludovico Einaudi)
- Andante from 24 Preludes (Lera Auerbach)
- Benedictus from “The Armed Man” (Karl Jenkins)
- Prelude in E-minor (J.S. Bach)
- Trysting Fields (Michael Nyman)
- Faust – Episode 2 – Nachspiel (Kartsen Gundermann)