Berlin-based violinist Daniel Hope’s latest album takes a deep dive into the rich repertoire of American music, exploring its roots and distinctive qualities. “We know a piece is from America the moment we hear it,” says Hope. “But what makes music sound American?” Daniel Hope – America provides some answers, presenting works by composers as diverse as Leonard Bernstein, Sam Cooke, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Florence Price, Samuel A. Ward and Kurt Weill in outstanding new classical and jazz arrangements by Paul Bateman for solo violin in different combinations, with vocals, piano, jazz trio, string/chamber orchestra and percussion. The album is released today.
As on his recent recordings Hope and Belle Epoque, Daniel Hope is joined by the Zürcher Kammerorchester, of which he has been Music Director since 2016. In addition, he welcomes an all-star line-up of guest artists, from German soul and R&B singer Joy Denalane, Brazilian pianist Sylvia Thereza and German jazz guitarist Joscho Stephan to acclaimed American jazz pianist and composer Marcus Roberts and his trio, which also includes Rodney Jordan on bass and Jason Marsalis on drums.
Hope and Roberts have performed together on several occasions, setting creative sparks flying as hosts of a “piano trio battle” that pits Haydn, Ravel and Shostakovich against Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Roberts himself. “Usually the classical and jazz worlds don’t really converge, but we managed to make it happen as a musical dialogue,” says Hope. “Now we’re doing it again on this record.”
He and Roberts are both committed to reviving compositions by African American composers and showing how their work helped make American music what it is today. “One of the crucial things you learn as a musician is the ability to listen to someone else, and learn from them,” says Roberts. “So if we could actually take these people’s music and figure out how and why it deserves recognition – not just because they were forgotten, but because there’s a relevant message in their music from which we can still learn and benefit today – then that would be a great way to elevate them and ourselves as well.”
Noting the way Dvořák stimulated an ongoing political debate more than a century ago, when he cited African American melodies as a source of inspiration, Hope has chosen here to include works by Florence Price, Duke Ellington and Sam Cooke, all of whom made their voices heard in an age of racial segregation and social injustice. As well as jazz, blues and classical music, the wide-ranging tracklist of Daniel Hope – America also features Broadway hits, American folk music and the songs that generations of migrants and refugees brought with them to the New World. Together these pieces help reveal the way American music gained its own unique sound.
The album opens with a Gershwin Song Suite, which includes such classics as “Fascinating Rhythm”, “I Got Rhythm” and, from the pioneering opera Porgy and Bess, “Summertime”. Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” (1964) recalls the singer-songwriter’s role in the Civil Rights movement, while Florence Price’s hauntingly beautiful Adoration shows why it was she who broke through barriers of race and gender to become the first African American woman to have her music performed by a major U.S. symphony orchestra. Other highlights of Hope’s new release include “Come Sunday” from Duke Ellington’s jazz suite Black, Brown and Beige, written for his band’s Carnegie Hall debut in 1943; the “Hoe-Down” from Copland’s ballet Rodeo, which celebrates the American West; and a suite of pieces by the German-Jewish composer Kurt Weill, who found refuge in America from Nazi persecution. Daniel Hope dedicates the album to his great-aunt, who, like Weill, escaped persecution in Germany and settled for the rest of her life in the United States. Four decades later, Hope’s father, a writer, liberal publisher and opponent of the apartheid regime, fled South Africa for London.
Hope and the Zürcher Kammerorchester will perform music from the album early next year on an eight-concert tour of Germany, opening on 1 February at Die Glocke in Bremen. Their itinerary also includes dates at Munich’s Prinzregententheater (2 February), the NDR Sendesaal in Hanover (4 February), Konzerthaus Berlin (5 February), Staatstheater Braunschweig (6 February), Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (9 February), Tonhalle Düsseldorf (11 February) and Frankfurt’s Alte Oper (12 February).
Daniel Hope’s work as musician, communicator and champion of humanitarian causes reaches far beyond the classical concert hall. In October 2021 he received the Opus KLASSIK jury’s Special Achievement Award for his Hope@Home concerts: 150 events, livestreamed daily from his living room during the early months of the pandemic, which gave a platform to nearly 400 musicians. Described by Classic FM as “one of the most charismatic violinists in the world”, he became an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist in 2007. His award-winning discography comprises more than thirty albums. Hope served as Associate Artistic Director of the Savannah Music Festival from 2003 to 2019, sharing the post with Marcus Roberts. Today, as well as being Music Director of the Zürcher Kammerorchester, he is also Artistic Director of San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Frauenkirche church in Dresden and President of the Beethoven-Haus Bonn.