Mendelssohn Violin Concerto; Octet

Marvellous Mendelssohn from Hope, in both Concerto and Octet

Author: 
Harriet Smith

Mendelssohn Violin Concerto; Octet

  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • Octet for strings
  • (12) Lieder, No. 8, Andres Maienlied or Hexenlied (wds. Hölty
  • (6) Lieder, No. 2, Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (wds. Heine)
  • (6) Lieder, No. 4, Suleika (wds. Goethe)

Daniel Hope has a chameleon-like ability to transform his style to fit every new recording. Often it’s revelatory, as in his Shostakovich, sometimes a touch interventionist, as in his Bach concertos. But he’s never dull. His Mendelssohn Concerto – his first release for DG – is refreshing, not least because he goes back to Mendelssohn’s earlier thoughts, which give the lie to the image of a composer from whom music flowed abundantly and effortlessly. In fact, the 1844 version, which Hope presents here, was the result of a seven-year gestation, with the composer making further alterations in 1845 to create the edition we know today.

Many of the changes are subtle – the most obvious are octave transpositions and a shorter first-movement cadenza. There are also striking alterations in the soloist’s passagework, such as towards the end of the slow movement. Hope is minutely responsive to every phrase of this music, making you wonder anew at its brilliance of invention. The outer movements dance, and his Andante has all the depth and subtlety of a great operatic aria, with remarkable richness in the alto register – a quality equally apparent in the song transcriptions.

This is very much a collaborative, responsive reading. The violin is not unduly spotlit, and the orchestral playing is warm yet transparent, the woodwind heavenly, the timpani a subtle but vital presence. I wouldn’t trade Joshua Bell’s reading – unrivalled in sheer beauty of sound – but nor would I want to be without this new recording.

The Octet is on a similarly elevated level, with Hope clearly the guiding light among his COE colleagues, but never becoming overbearing. Indeed, it is the emphasis on inner workings as much as soaring lines which makes this performance so illuminating. Altogether, a major addition to Hope’s discography.

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