with Jacques Ammon, piano; Chié Peters, violin; Juan Lucas Aisemberg, viola; Christiane Starke, cello; Jochen Carls, double bass
Deutsche Kammerorchester Berlin
Members of the Rundfunkchor Berlin
Simon Halsey, conductor and chorus master
Deutsche Grammophon, 2013
The aim of Daniel Hope’s album Spheres is not merely ambitious, but can easily be considered “universal”. Its compositions does not only introduce the idea of extraterrestrial music as it was intended between the enormous lapse of time ranging between the 17th and the 21st century, but it also refers to the circularity of modern music and, at last, it reminds of the old belief that music was strictly connected with the planets movement.
To prove this complex and fascinating programme it was indispensable to resort to composers from different ages and to add new commissioned compositions (as Gabriel Prokofiev’s Spheres and Alex Baranowski’s Musica universalis), not only to make the listener understand the evolution of this universal concept with the passing of time, but also to provide Spheres with the required dramatic unity to make it sound like an uninterrupted and harmonious speech.
Harmony is the term that suits better this album as it is clear that Hope and the musicians that alternate at his side during the performance of the eighteen pieces that compose Spheres want to achieve a universal regularity and order – not an imposed one, by a sort of geometrical and quiet order. These order and harmony are realized through many beautiful melodies that develop from Westhoff’s Imitazione delle campane (“imitation of bells”), a piece that not only highlights immediately Hope’s virtuosity, but that seems an exhortation to welcome the invitation of the bells, to reach the ideal climax in the central work that is Prokofiev’s Spheres not by chance (and I think that another title with the same evocative strength is difficult to find even in this same album), to end with Gundermann’s Faust – Episode 2 – Nachtspiel and its rarefied sounds.
Among these and other remarkable pieces there are two nostalgic, terribly sweet compositions by Ludovico Einaudi, I giorni and Passaggio, Arvo Part’s Fratres with its idea of a struggling search, Max Richter’s Berlin by Overnight and the distant lights it evokes and the wonderful Prelude in E minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.
The thing that is it to be noticed as a final note is that, while the accompaniment is usually directed to create the illusion of distant, unreachable or mysterious worlds (something that becomes particularly successful with the silvery and crystal sound of the piano), the sound of Hope’s violin is usually warm, even friendly, as if it is the guide of this ethereal journey.