Violinist scores musical triumph
Work with Zurich Chamber Orchestra masterful, faultless.
Violinist Daniel Hope conducted the Zurich Chamber Orchestra in the traditional role of leader of the first violins. He opened the program with prefatory remarks about his almost lifelong relationship with Yehudi Menuhin, whom he met at age 2 and with whom he later performed, the last time five days before Menuhin’s death in 1999.
Menuhin called himself Hope’s “musical grandfather,” and the Tuesday program at the Kravis Center was in tribute to him. It opened with Hope and Assistant Concertmaster Donat Nussbauer playing the solo parts in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043, joined by 16 strings and continuo of harpsichord and theorbo (a large lute).
It was a true ensemble performance. The solo violin lines were nested within the whole. The opening vivace was fast, refreshingly so. The largo was always lyrical but never reverential except for the excessive slowing of its final measures. The allegro was a treat from start to its pizzicato finish. In Edward Elgar’s 1905 Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47, I prefer a larger body of strings; however, they might have been hard pressed to match the articulation and ensemble of the Zurich players. The bracing opening theme, the nostalgic “Welsh Tune” heard in contrast, and the “devil of a fugue” (the composer’s description) all add up to one of the greatest works for string orchestra.
Unfinished Journey by the Lebanese émigré composer Bechara ElKhoury was heard next. Hope commissioned it for the 10th anniversary of Menuhin’s death. Levantine cantillation in the violin is heard against homophonic textures in the orchestral strings. It was a pleasant novelty.
In 1951, Menuhin performed Felix Mendelssohn’s “other” concerto for viollin, Violin Concerto in D minor, which he wrote at age 12 and was recently rediscovered. Despite Menuhin’s advocacy, it hasn’t managed to enter the repertoire in the sixand-a-half decades since its “premiere.” Mendelssohn wrote out the cadenzas in its three movements. It has an interesting beginning using material from the opening of the Bach “Double” and a lively alla zingara conclusion. But the middle andante meanders and the work lacks both the emotional intensity and perfection of the E minorconcerto. However, Hope was an effective advocate.
After intermission, the ensemble launched into Gustav Mahler’s 1896 arrangement of Franz Schubert’s Quartet in D minor, D. 810, which is nicknamed “Death and the Maiden” after the second-movement variations on Schubert’s song (D. 531) of the same title. Mahler adds contrabasses to reinforce the cello line; otherwise, the four parts are left almost untouched. The enlargement dissipates the work’s immediacy and drama. Nevertheless, the performance was musically faultless. An encore followed, the praeludium from Edvard Grieg’s Suite From Holberg’s Time,
As lead violinist, Daniel Hope conducts the Zurich Chamber Orchestra.