United Kingdom Mozart, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Pärt, El-Khoury, From Bach to El-Khoury: L’arte del mondo, Daniel Hope (violin/director) Birmingham Town Hall, 18.5.16 (GR)
Mozart: Divertimento in D major, KV 136
Vivaldi: Concerto for two violins in A minor, RV 522
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in D Minor
Mozart: Divertimento in F major, KV 138
Arvo Pärt: Darf Ich … (version without bells)
Bechara El-Khoury: Unfinished Journey
J S Bach: Double Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043
Although Daniel Hope’s connection to Yehudi Menuhin was not through the renowned Cobham school (founded by Menuhin in 1963 and now a Centre of Excellence for the Performing Arts) he is in a unique position to be at the heart of the current Menuhin centenary commemorations. In 1975 when he was two, his mother became Menuhin’s PA before going on to be his manager. In the pre-concert conversation, Hope recalled many fond personal memories of the master, as well as recounting several of the prodigious feats Menuhin performed as a seven-year-old. Hope’s latest CD along with Kammerorchester Basel, is entitled My Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin (DG) the content of which forms the basis of a present touring programme. Accompaniment for Hope has been shared with L’arte del Mondo, and it was they who took the Birmingham Town Hall stage on 18th May 2016.
Leading L’arte del mondo – a thirteen string plus harpsichord orchestra based in Leverkusen – was their founder and Artistic Director Werner Ehrhard. They began the evening with KV 136, the first of three so-called divertimenti by Mozart, alternatively named the ‘Salzburg’ symphonies which I thought it might have had a bit more glitz. However there nothing lacklustre about the Vivaldi that followed, his Concerto for two violins in A minor. A common wavelength between Hope and co-soloist Andrea Keller (sub-leader of L’arte del mondo) was instantly established, a togetherness shared by the whole group. As Ehrhardt came more into prominence in the third Allegro movement of RV 522, the interaction and buzz between the three was exhilarating. The third item, like all of them in the programme directly linked to Menuhin, was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D Minor, brought to Menuhin’s attention in 1951 and recorded by him the following year. Written when Mendelssohn was only thirteen, it naturally does not have the widespread appeal of the E Minor, but is nevertheless of great academic interest. Very much about the soloist, Hope gave an assured performance, displaying the beautiful tone of his Guarneri in the andante and a sparkling gypsy-style kick to the closing allegro.
After the interval, a second Mozart divertimento KV 138, re-opened proceedings. The first (Allegro) movement reminded me of Bach’s Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K525 – a little anyway; the violas of Antje Sabinski and Rafael Roth in the (Presto) third movement demanded my attention. Next came the other side of Menuhin with Arvo Pärt’s Darf ich … (Can I… ). Without the bells, surely much of its tintinnabulation style is lost (despite the assurances in the programme notes). When Menuhin first received the piece, he asked the composer ‘Can I what?’ to which the reply came, ‘That’s for you say!’ Although only three minutes long, my answer was ‘… Empathise with you!’ An example of ‘East meets West’ followed: the Lebanese composer Bechara El-Khoury’s Unfinished Journey (the title of Menuhin’s autobiography) commissioned by Hope and the Gstaad Menuhin Festival in 2009 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Menuhin’s death. I found it utterly captivating, with Hope’s beautiful phrasing frustratingly underdeveloped at times – but symbolic of the title. There was also a sensation of expectation from the chattering tremolo string accompaniment, a feeling underpinned by the haunting perceptions of the closing muted bars. There are many iconic recordings by Menuhin and his pairing with David Oistrakh for the Bach Double Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043 is one of the most popular; this work closed the scheduled programme. Once more Keller partnered Hope; there were fireworks but I thought there might have been a few more of them, their rendition being more memorable for its adroit handling of the tempo changes.
The platform was very well received by an embarrassingly small Town Hall audience; many said they had never seen it so sparse. Nevertheless professional to the last, two encores were given. The first of these was the third movement of ‘Summer’, à la Max Richter and his Vivaldi Recomposed – played at fever pitch and now with loads of fireworks, cellist Rosa Canellas deservedly also taking a bow for this one. The second was (I believe) part of a Violin Sonata by Johann Paul Westhoff – the Imitation of Bells provided an apt substitute for those absent ones from the Pärt.
The quality delivered by Daniel Hope and L’arte del mondo deserved better support, so there must be concerns all round.