Daniel Hope - Journey to Mozart
Violinist Daniel Hope draws on his own Mozartian memories and puts the Classical period in context as he explores music by Mozart and his contemporaries.
On his latest Deutsche Grammophon album, Daniel Hope again joins forces with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, where he has been Music Director since 2016. Journey to Mozart, scheduled for international release on 9 February 2018, features repertoire ranging from extracts of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice to a Romance by Salomon, taking in violin concertos by Haydn and Mysliveček as well as Mozart himself along the way. Also included are Mozart’s beautiful Adagio in E and a new orchestral version of his Rondo alla turca. Hope and the Zurich ensemble will be performing music from the album at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie on 10 January 2018, and at venues all across Germany in late February.
Daniel Hope refers to Mozart as “the boss”, the composer whose genius surpasses all others. “His music is simply incredible,” he observes. “Mozart has a way of conveying emotion that no other composer can match. His music has something which is otherworldly, untouchable, almost unreachable. And yet, he was so very human. If you study his letters in detail, you discover the kind of person he was – a prodigious talent who was misunderstood by his father, by his peers, and who did things his way. He was loved by great composers, hated by others, but never let go of what he wanted: to become an independent composer. Pulled between the pillars and posts of his own time, he somehow managed to write some of the most beautiful music that we have ever heard.”
Many years passed before Daniel Hope felt ready to record Mozart. The violinist, whose impressive eleven-year Deutsche Grammophon discography embraces everything from Bach and Vivaldi to Erwin Schulhoff and Max Richter, says that Mozart’s music demands time: time for years of performances, deep contemplation and reflection; above all, time to “live” with one of the greatest creative artists of all time.
Journey to Mozart pays tribute to a composer central to Hope’s musical life. Recorded with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and set for international release by the yellow label on 9 February 2018, it connects the violinist’s personal memories with a wider sense of Mozart’s reach from past to present, the freshness of his invention and the influences that fed into and flowed from his work.
The album takes listeners on a voyage through music history. It opens with the “Dance of the Furies” and “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” from Gluck’s ground-breaking opera Orfeo ed Euridice, first performed in Vienna in 1762, and continues with Haydn’s Violin Concerto in G major, probably written for the principal violinist of the famous Esterházy court orchestra in the late 1760s. Hallmarks of the Classical style can be heard in the nobility and refinement of Haydn’s work, and in the expressive eloquence of the Larghetto from Josef Mysliveček’s Violin Concerto in D major. Hope ventures into the territory of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3 in G major K.216 and Adagio in E major K.261, both written in Salzburg in the mid-1770s, before exploring the Romance for violin and strings by Johann Peter Salomon. A sparkling new arrangement of Mozart’s “Turkish” Rondo, complete with increasingly wild Turkish and Hungarian percussion interventions, signals journey’s end.
“I relish researching different styles of music,” Daniel Hope reflects. “Mozart’s music is modern: so revolutionary that I find it hard to refer to it solely as ‘Classical’. We often use the word today to mean old-fashioned, and yet Mozart is anything but old-fashioned. The Classical period of music history is fascinating, because it was at this time that composers, artists and thinkers began to free themselves – to break away from the hierarchical structures that were in place, and from serving kings and the aristocracy. We see how the Classical style, governed by the rules of music and, to a certain extent, of etiquette, became a way of life. It was out of this order that the idea of the virtuoso artist was born; in a sense it was really the beginning of the way we think about music today.”
Hope’s carefully constructed album reveals close links between Mozart and his contemporaries. Gluck, for instance, paid compliments to the prodigious young composer and invited him to dine at his home in Vienna, while Haydn declared that Mozart was “a god in music”. Mozart clearly learned much from Haydn, acknowledging his debt to the older man in his inimitable style: “You’re the exception, but all other composers are veritable asses!”
Journey to Mozart reveals other important musical friendships and acquaintances. “Mysliveček, who was born in Prague, was prolific in his day and wrote extensively for violin,” notes Hope. “He was close to Mozart: the two became friends after they met in Bologna in 1770. The slow movement of Mysliveček’s Violin Concerto in D major conjures up a darkness and a beautiful, brooding quality which is also present in the darker moments of Mozart’s music.” The violinist hears echoes of Mozart even in the exquisite Romance by the German violinist, impresario and composer Johann Peter Salomon. Written in 1810, it blends elements of Classical formality with the new Romantic subjectivity that was emerging in music, literature and painting at the time.
“Salomon is a scintillating figure,” says Hope. He began his career as a court musician in Bonn, where he befriended the young Beethoven, and found lasting fame in London as an independent concert promoter, attracting Haydn to appear in his subscription series and supposedly giving the nickname ‘Jupiter’ to Mozart’s last symphony. “Salomon wrote his stunning Romance for violin at the beginning of the Romantic era. In a sense, it shows what happened after Mozart. It’s one of the reasons I decided to take this journey, connecting the people to whom Mozart felt close, as well as those he inspired.”
Journey to Mozart pairs beloved violin concertos by Haydn and Mozart, works that highlight the originality and inventiveness of both composers. “Haydn’s violin concertos are pure joy – they are perfection,” comments Daniel Hope. “They exist within their own dignified structure, which exemplifies the beauty of Haydn. It was my wish to show the contrast between the structure of Haydn and Mozart, the latter taking the expressive journey even further. But Mozart could not have achieved that without Haydn; it was Haydn who consolidated this extraordinary musical world.”
Hope admits that it was nearly impossible to choose one of Mozart’s five violin concertos. In the end, he decided to record the Third. “The G major has accompanied me all my life,” he recalls. “It was the first Mozart concerto I heard as a young boy: Yehudi Menuhin and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra played it frequently, and there’s something about the opening of the piece that always takes me back to those early musical encounters. The opening melody of the second movement and the development is some of the most beautiful music ever written. In the finale, there’s a sudden change of scenery: a beautiful, simple violin melody emerges, accompanied by the flutes. Whenever I play Mozart, I look forward to those moments before they happen: they feel like magical departures from this world.”