Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Super Music Week 4: Daniel Hope with New Century

Daniel Hope a British violin virtuoso, was the guest conductor and soloist of the New Century Chamber Orchestra last week in a sensationally good concert called Hope for Menuhin. Hope's parents were anti-apartheid exiles from South Africa in the 1970s who moved to London, where father Christopher wrote novels and mother Eleanor became secretary and then manager to legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin. "Through someone who knew someone who knew someone, my mother had the choice of being secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury or Menuhin, and thankfully she chose the latter," he told the audience at one point during the concert, explaining how Yehudi had become his mentor.

The concert was filled with music associated with Menuhin, from the Baroque era to contemporary times, starting with J.S. Bach's Concerto in D Minor for 2 Violins, which Hope played with concertmaster Dawn Harms above. Their interplay with each other and the larger ensemble was delightful, featuring some of the best playing I have ever heard from New Century.

Saturday evening was my first time back for a concert in Herbst Theatre since its retrofitting rehab. Tthe acoustics were noticeably improved by the wooden box seats on the side which replaced those weird 1970s box seats which did terrible things to the sound. Having the string players standing rather than sitting also seemed to do wonders for the acoustics and the energy level. Above is Daniel Hope and Iris Stone who played Echorus for 2 Violins and Strings by Philip Glass, one of his more expressive, beautiful works, which followed a short piece called Darf ich... by Arvo Part.

The first half of the program ended with a violin concerto by Mendelssohn which he wrote at the age of 12. The score was lost and rediscovered 100 years later, and then acquired in 1951 by Menuhin who toured with it around the world. It's a wild, virtuosic piece that Hope played brilliantly.

The second half of the program started with the Concerto in A minor for 2 violins by Vivaldi, and this time it was Candace Guirao who shared soloist honors with Hope. They were sensational, and again, so was the whole ensemble. A pair of elegaic pieces followed, by Bechara El-Khouri (Unfinished Journey in memoriam Yehudi Menuin) and Toru Takemitsu (Nostalghia for Violin and Strings). The finale was a short, fun ride with Bela Bartok's Six Romanian Folk Dances.

The New Century Chamber Orchestra is looking for a new leader after announcing that Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is leaving her music director post after the upcoming season. Daniel Hope is probably too busy to be interested in a job halfway around the world from his base in Vienna. Plus, he is taking over the Zurich Chamber Orchestra this year from Roger Norrington. Still, it was obvious that Hope worked beautifully with the New Century musicians, and it would be nice to see him return.

1 comment:

Hattie said...

This fills me with nostalgia. I was so enchanted with Menuhin and his life and the whole Bay Area music thing, once upon a time, and so pleased that the tradition continues, even though my music brain is about gone.