MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in e, Op. 64; JOHN ADAMS: Violin Concerto – Chad Hoopes, violin/ MDR Leipzig Radio Sym. Orch./ Kristjan Jarvi – Naïve V 5368, 59:00 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
This is, without a doubt, a young man’s Mendelssohn. Breathless, technically perfect, faultlessly executed, and stirringly interpreted, what could be lacking? Air! There is no doubt that this is an exciting reading, and if I heard it in concert I am sure I would be raving afterward. But for everyday fare I am just not sure how well this will wear. Jarvi energetically and enthusiastically joins in the effort, every bit as involved in this roller coaster ride as the soloist.
American Chad Hoopes is only 19 years old, and that explains the energy. He is the First Prize Winner of the Young Artists division of the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, and his star is rising fast. I hope that doesn’t translate into too fast, and I am sure that his take on this concerto in ten years will be a little different. While Mendelssohn himself died very young, and he might actually love every moment of Hoopes’s reading, we often tend to read the wisdom of old age into pieces composed by relatively young composers. Is there anyone more profound and endued with the wisdom of the ages than Mozart? Yet we continually treat him as if only an artist of many years can properly “understand” him. But art, to be fair, is like that—the creator is often given wisdom far beyond his or her years and seems to transcend mere physical age.
The Adams Concerto is a fine work, most successful in the latter two movements, especially the outstanding middle movement “Chaconne”. It too is a lyrical work, though obviously in a different manner than the Mendelssohn, though the pairing of the two together gels in an unexpectedly satisfying manner. This style fits Hoopes very well, a modern piece of easy accessibility though still challenging in a number of ways, and of a stylistic bent that is of one accord with music that Hoopes surely grew up with. I enjoyed his performance immensely, and it fares very well alongside the likes of Kremer and McDuffie. The Chloë Hanslip release on Naxos presents an excellent program with some additional valuable performances, though I think the Adams is the weakest of her recital. Our Editor likes it though.
The Mendelssohn is much more competitive of course, and I will not stray from Mutter or Salerno-Sonnenberg as best of breed (though arguments can be made for at least 20 others); But when I get a hankering for a wild ride I’m sure it is to Mr. Hoopes that I will turn. The MDR-Studio in Leipzig offers a resonant and very clean recording of excellent dynamic range.