Air. A Baroque Journey
with Lorenza Borriani: second solo violin; Lucy Gould: violin; Steward Eaton: viola; William Conway: cello; Enno Senft: double bass
(Soloists of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe)
Jonathan Cohen: cello; Kristian Bezuidenhout: harpsichord, organ; Stefan Maass, Stephan Rath: lute, guitar, theorbo; Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen: percussion
Deutsche Grammophon, 2009
Daniel Hope’s album Air takes its title from the famous work composed by Johann Sebastian Bach and is centred on four musicians of the Baroque era who travelled throughout Europe in search of inspiration, Andrea Falconieri, Nicola Matteis, Francesco Geminiani and Johann Paul Westhoff. Next to them, as complements, Air includes works written by their contemporaries, being them famous as Johann Pachelbel, Georg Friedrich Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann, or less known as Diego Ortiz, Biagio Marini, Antonio Valente and Jean-Marie Leclair. Overall, Air presents itself as a homogeneous recording, where every piece can be considered as a shade of the same colour, and it does not offer only a sample of the varied inspiration of the Baroque composers but – once more – of the versatility of Hope himself.
The first attributes that someone associates with a title as Air are lightness, transparency and a sort of diaphanous luminosity, together with less ethereal and more human feelings as joy and amusement – features that are scrupulously reflected in Daniel Hope’s performance and in that of the other musicians (for the presence of many “guest stars”, it can be said that Air is a “choral” recording, though Hope’s figure is always the most prominent one). Therefore, there is nothing better than Falconieri’s lively Ciaccona, the first piece the album, to offer a glimpse of its lively and joyful spirit – a spirit that, after the “pause” constituted by Handel’s Sarabanda, returns in Ortiz’s Ricercata segunda, in the whirling Tambourin by Leclair and in Matteis’s Ground after the Scotch Humour.
Hope does not focus only on joy and clearer, more crystalline “airs” are, for example, those of Falconieri’s La suave melodia and of Westhoff’s evocative Imitazione del liuto. Pachelbel’s famous Canon, perhaps the most famous piece of the recording together with Bach’s Air, stands out for its uncommon suavity and ineffable serenity. The same charm belongs to the pivotal work, Bach’s Air, but in this case the joy of the former piece is substituted by an almost superhuman happiness.
Among many recordings inspired by the negative sides of human nature, Air places itself as a radiant example of the joie de vivre and of cheerful and delicate feelings, so well demonstrated by the works that Daniel Hope performs with the usual skill and inspiration to offer them to us at their best.