DANIEL HOPE UNITES VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS WITH WORKS BY SCHUMANN, BACH, APHEX TWIN, NILS FRAHM, MAX RICHTER AND MORE IN A COMPELLING NEW REFLECTION ON TIME'S PASSING, FOR SEASONS
Concerned with nature's eternal cycle of decline and renewal, Daniel Hope's latest album for Deutsche Grammophon explores the creative relationship between music, art and the ever-changing calendar. For Seasons includes the violinist's first recording of Vivaldi's evergreen collection of seasonal concertos together with a dozen companion works associated with the months of the year. His choice of repertoire reveals the imaginative scope unlocked when composers turn for inspiration to the seasons and evokes our strength of attachment to the landmarks of passing time. Vivaldi's The Four Seasons leads the way in a program that spans everything from venerable compositions by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Melchior Molter and Johann Sebastian Bach to recent works by Aphex Twin, Nils Frahm, Chilly Gonzales and Max Richter.
The Four Seasons belongs to Daniel Hope's earliest memories. He was around seven when he began to "stumble through" The Four Seasons and thirteen when he first performed the piece in public. His ever-rising tally of performances currently stands around the one thousand mark. "I have such deep respect for the piece," he reflects. "But because it's so much part of me – perhaps more so than any other violin concerto – I thought for a long time that I would never record it, that I simply could not put it down on tape." The adventure of recording Max Richter's Recomposed: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons in 2012, a striking contemporary take on the quartet of concertos, and the delights of performing the original composition with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra helped change Hope's mind.
"My many experiences with The Four Seasons, all the way from childhood, led me full circle to the moment when I was appointed Music Director of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. I found myself in front of this wonderful orchestra playing the piece I'd first heard them perform four decades ago. And then I realised how these musicians were so energetic and enthusiastic in the way in which they expressed their understanding of Vivaldi. I felt our performances of The Four Seasons were a revelation in terms of the colors we produced, the tempi we took and the details that emerged. After performing the concertos for the third time together, we decided we'd be mad not to record them. Yes, there may be a thousand recordings of The Four Seasons – and legendary recordings among them. But I realized I felt finally ready to add our interpretation to them. It was either now or never!"
When it came to choosing companion pieces for Vivaldi, Hope turned to a cherished program concept, one conceived in the early years of his professional career. His "For Seasons" idea arose in the early ‘90s as a way of exploring the artistic resonances of the seasons, their power to affect everything from literature and philosophy to painting and music. "I pitched the idea to several record companies just as I was starting out and I still have the rejection letters from them. This For Seasons project has been swirling in my mind for almost twenty-five years, so I'm delighted that DG has finally made it happen. We have created a mosaic in music and images of what the seasons mean to me. I see it as a way of placing Vivaldi within a broader look back at my life and bringing The Four Seasons together with works that match my feelings for the months of the year. There's a modern message here, which is about the cohesive expression of time and life cycles. Those familiar cycles are being broken left, right and center at present throughout our world. This is my way of marking time: my time and our times."
Hope took great care to select pieces with clear connections to each month and season. His choice of compositions includes works directly associated with the calendar, including arrangements of Aphex Twin's "Avril 14th," "June" from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons and Kurt Weill's "September Song," while others convey the atmosphere of a given month. The lyrical "Ambre" by German composer and producer Nils Frahm, freshly arranged for solo violin, string quartet, double bass, harp and piano, sets the contemplative mood for January. "Spring 1" from Max Richter's Recomposed and "Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen" from Schumann's Dichterliebe emerged as the violinist's firm favorites for March and July.
For Seasons invites listeners to be receptive with heart and mind to a program built from music of diverse styles and origins. It also offers a showcase for the tremendous musicianship of Daniel Hope's Zurich Chamber Orchestra. "I have at my disposal an orchestra which has the flexibility to play Baroque music like a period-instrument band, and yet also performs Romantic and 20th-century music with great authority," he observes. "I wanted to reflect that flexibility on our album, just as we do in our concerts together." The album's musical range and the equally varied works of art in the booklet, by twelve different painters, reflect Hope's desire to draw people ever closer to the great parade of the seasons.