Vivaldi, Bach, Frahm, Gonzales, Rameau, Richter, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Weill
with Jacques Ammon, piano; Christoph Anacker, double bass; Christian Badzura, bass synthesizer; Jane Berthe, harp; Claudio Bohórquez, cello; Dom Bouffard, electric guitar; Chilly Gonzales, piano; Naoki Kitaya, organ; Michael Metzler, percussion; Anna Lucia Richter, soprano
Willi Zimmermann, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2017
«Look to the seasons when choosing your cures» (Hippocrates).
«In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer» (Albert Camus).
These are the two quotes with which violinist Daniel Hope introduces For seasons, an extraordinary and eclectic recording which collects a wide range of works written by composers from different eras from Baroque to contemporary music.
The purpose of For Seasons is an intriguing one and it is achieved with great coherence in the development of the main theme, which is – as the title suggests – to explore the periods of the year, something that is carried out in the first part of the recording with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and later developed in detail, devoting a track to each month.
Although Hope plays the Four Seasons with virtuosity and taste, the next works attracts the listener’s attention not only for the way in which they are performed, but for their appearance too. These short compositions have been re-arranged for the most part, as it happens for Nils Frahm’s Ambre and Aphex Twin’s Avril 14th (both arranged by Christian Badzura) and the traditional Amazing Grace, Tchaikovsky’s June and Schumann’s Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen from Diechterliebe (all arranged by Hope, alone or in collaboration with someone else). There is also room for the world premiere recording of Chilly Gonzales’s Les doutes d’aout, with the composer himself accompanying Hope from the piano. Therefore, For Seasons has a more “canonical” form for what Vivaldi’s concertos are concerned and offers through them a concise introduction to the seasons and their main features, while the second part is more original and it is to be discovered with even more curiosity than the first.
To the ingenuity of the project corresponds a high quality performance because Hope is accompanied by first rate ensembles and soloists (I listed all of them above). The talent of the British violinist is out of question and it stands out in the subtle execution of a renowned work as the Four Seasons as well as in the shortest compositions, which highlight his versatility. The most remarkable aspect of the section of the album devoted to the months is in fact the ease with which Hope passes from one composer to another and from one era to another, making the passage natural and, at the same time, predetermined, exactly as it happens with the changing of the seasons. Hope’s sensibility allows him to give a peculiar character to each month, so that the aforementioned Ambre captures the chilly and suffused atmosphere of January, the brilliant Danse des Savages from Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes easily reminds of the colourful and carnival February, the lively Spring 1 from Recomposed by Max Richter is a joyous tribute to March and – at the other end of the album and of the year – Brahms’s sweet lullaby Guten Abend, gut’ Nacht is perfect to convey the idea of a sleepy December.
In the end, For Seasons is successful from any point of view. It is evocative and agreeable and benefits from an original guiding thread, conditions that allows an accomplished violinist as Daniel Hope to realize a beautiful and amazing album.