ClassicMelbourne reviewer Heather Leviston found that a visiting violinist more than lived up to the promise of his name, with Hope and pianist Caroline Almonte going beyond the promise of the concert title, and leaving the audience wanting more from the duo.
Daniel Hope – A Celebration of Joseph Joachim
Melbourne Recital Centre
Tuesday 11 February 2014
The choice of British violinist Daniel Hope to launch the 2014 Great Performers Series was a guarantee of the kind of success that justifies the name of the Melbourne Recital Centre’s key series offering. A contemporary star of the violin drew upon repertoire connected to possibly the greatest performer on the violin of all time to create a program of great emotional depth.
Joachim was largely responsible for “discovering” the young Johannes Brahms in 1853 when Brahms was accompanying Joachim’s former classmate, Hungarian violinist, Eduard Remenyi. Shortly afterwards he introduced Brahms to Robert and Clara Schumann, thus facilitating a relationship of huge musical importance. The first half of the program acted as a celebration of this confluence of musical luminaries.
The opening Scherzo from the F-A-E Sonata was Brahms’ early gift to Joachim, with the musical F-A-E derived from Joachim’s personal motto “Frei aber einsam” (Free but lonely). Much has been made of the exceptional merits of Daniel Hope’s ex-Lipinski Guarneri del Gesu violin and in his expert hands it certainly lived up to expectation. The sound was consistently refined, from the initial attacking lower passages to the exquisite sweetness of the held upper notes.
Caroline Almonte’s pianism is well suited to Brahms as she is able to combine considered delicacy with depth of sound and full-bodied, expansive phrasing. It was immediately apparent that she and Daniel Hope had established a special rapport. Their shared musical understanding in this and Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 1 was a constant pleasure as they breathed together through the long musical phrases. Between the Brahms pieces they gave a suitably rich and emotional reading of Clara Schumann’s Romanze, Op. 20 No. 1.
Although the piano seemed to dominate just a little too much in a couple of the louder passages in the first half of the program, it would seem that this may well have been a characteristic of the acoustic in some parts of the hall. Almonte’s sensitivity and responsiveness to her musical partners is unquestionable. Without any suggestion of affectation or overblown romanticism, Hope and Almonte were able to conjure the drama and intense lyricism of this passionate music in a beautifully balanced collaboration.
In keeping with a practice of Joachim’s time, Daniel Hope arranged two contrasting songs by Mendelssohn for violin and piano: On Wings of Song and Witches Song, the latter being given plenty of colour and character. The following Joachim composition, Romanze, was not the display of pyrotechnics that could have been expected from the greatest violin virtuoso of his time; rather, there was an unexpected sense of a story being told most eloquently, with an emphasis on phrasing and the quality of the sound. It was certainly a favourite with the audience.
In fact, Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 3 demanded more sheer virtuosity than other items, even though much of the work consists of fairly simple folk-like melodies. Dynamic contrast, mood shifts, gleaming upper notes and a fast and furious exciting coda were among the many elements that revealed the breadth of Daniel Hope’s skill and artistry.
This concert was not just a celebration of music dedicated to, inspired by or connected to Joachim; it was a celebration of the violin in partnership with the piano and of music itself. It was little wonder that an enthusiastic audience responded so heartily and was maybe a little disappointed that there was only one short encore. I’m sure that we would have been delighted to hear all seven of Manuel de Falla’s Canciones.