Exclusive Interview with Daniel Hope: May 17, 2011
Rel. 22 Mar 2011
On Friday, May 6, 2011, Artistic Director Nolan Gasser spoke with celebrated violinist, author, and musical activist Daniel Hope – whose latest Deutsche Gramophone release, The Romantic Violinist, is dedicated to the music and influential legacy of the iconic 19th century violinist Joseph Joachim. In this rich and engaging interview, Mr. Hope discusses in great detail his thoughts on Joachim’s influence and his strategy in constructing this “tribute” CD. The two also discuss some of Mr. Hope’s fascinating “activist” projects – notably the impressive 2008 Kristallnacht commemoration concert, his life-long interest in crossing musical boundaries, and much more. In addition, our feature includes a 1-Click Playlist featuring music by Mr. Hope – as a soloist and chamber musician, a set of videos. and a FREE STREAM of his recording of the opening movement of Elgar's Violin Sonata, thanks to our friends at Nimbus Records. Don’t miss this fascinating interview with a most impressive musician!
“The structure of a CD is very important for me; it should be like a journey for the listener, with all the right changes and contrasts from piece to piece. Some may put on a CD and listen to only one or two tracks, but I like to imagine him sitting down for the whole thing, taking in this rich musical or historical journey. I never just throw tracks together; they all need to be part of a larger concept.”
– Daniel Hope
Nolan Gasser: Daniel Hope, welcome to Classical Archives. It's been a real treat, in preparing for this interview, to learn of the many-faceted aspects of your career; more than just the world-class violinist that we all know you as, you're also a prolific author, a producer, a video blogger, and an arts activist. You once stated that you inherited your father's "iron will to work incredibly hard" - have you always been one to have your fingers in multiple pots?
Daniel Hope: Yes, I think I have; I've always had a kind of natural curiosity that fuels all of the things I do. Yet, more than anything else, it's music that informs my decisions: principally, I'm a musician - a violinist, so if I'm writing books or presenting programs, it comes out of this energy that I feel for music. Music is what drives my life from morning until night. Through my upbringing by my parents - and by my father in particular, who, as a writer himself, and someone who is very political, and encouraged us to have an opinion - I was always on the lookout for different avenues of expression that had to do with music. Many of the projects that I've done have come about because of coincidences - from meeting somebody or discovering something. But the key ingredient is my natural curiosity - that's what keeps me going.
NG: We'll certainly get a chance to touch upon some of these other activities, but let's start with what largely inspires you - and helps you to carry out such a broad schedule, and that indeed is your work as a violinist.
Your most recent album for Deutsche Gramophone is called The Romantic Violinist, and I sense that it is for you a particularly important musical statement - not only celebrating the impact of the great 19th century violinist Joseph Joachim, but also enabling a broader discussion of the very question of what is "romanticism". I read in your liner notes, for example, that the impetus for the album was receiving a biography of Joachim from its author after a concert; can you talk a bit more about how the concept of this album formed in your mind?
DH: Yes, that biography was certainly one major impulse, although I have to say that the concept goes a lot further back. I collected records as a kid, and when I was very small my father gave me as a present some old wax recordings of the great violinists of yesteryear: [Eugène] Ysaÿe, [Pablo de] Sarasate, and Joachim himself. So, I was always listening to these guys; it was so amazing: the crackly sound around the recordings, and these very unique interpretations from each of the violinists - each had such a unique "face" and personality. And for me, Joachim was the most interesting because of his sound - it was so unusual, so beautiful, and yet was so much in it's own world; it wasn't like any of the others - it wasn't, as we'd say, "fruity", as were the others; it was a more direct and a more emotional sound, but not overly perfumed.
That was what started things off; and over the years, I'd pick up pieces to study - the Bruch, Violin Concert [No.1 in G-, Op.26], the Brahms Violin Concerto in D, Op.77, the Schumann Violin Concerto in D-, WoO23, the Dvorak Violin Concerto in A-, Op.53, etc. and I kept running into Joachim's name. I knew that he was a great violinist, but not much more than that.
Then one day after a concert - as you mentioned - a lady comes back stage and says, "This is a book I've written about Joachim; would you like to read it?" I did, and I discovered what an amazing source Joachim was in the world of music, literature, and art in the 19th century; he was someone who inspired so many composers that changed the course of music history because of his own personal decisions. So I thought, "This is a fascinating figure, somebody who deserves to be better known than he currently is." And that's when all of the years that Joachim had been percolating inside me suddenly jelled, and I decided it was time to look at him in a more intense way.
NG: Terrific; it's always great to have a platform - as you've had with this CD - upon which to explore something that becomes a personal passion.
When we think of the "classic" violinists of yesteryear, we conjure up names like [Jascha] Heifetz, [Arthur] Grimaux, and [David] Oistrakh; but these violinists you've mentioned - Sarasate, Ysaÿe, and Joachim - are from an even earlier generation. Since most of us don't have this sound in our mind's ear, can you tell us what specifically struck you about their sound - especially that of Joachim?
DH: For me, Joachim really is the quintessential Romantic violinist, meaning from the Romantic era; but he's not a "romantic" player; these are two very different categories. If you listen to Joachim playing Bach or Brahms - or playing his own music - you'll hear a very sparse use of vibrato; it's a very determined sound, relentless: it doesn't let you go. And yet it has a touching quality about it - it's never sentimental, but always deeply moving.
That's what I've always thought about Joachim; and then when I started to read about him - his letters, and eyewitness reports - I had the feeling that this was the kind of person he really was, someone who belonged to the great tradition of central European violin playing, pre-Fritz Kreisler era. He was so devoted to the classics - to Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach; in a way, he was like an entrepreneur and a philanthropist for music, because he re-discovered these works: he put Bach back on the program, and was the one who created a sensation around the Beethoven Violin Concerto [in D, Op.61] - which had more or less been a disaster when it was premiered in 1806. But when this 12-year old violinist in short pants played the concerto in a London concert presented by Mendelssohn, everyone shouts that it's the greatest violin piece ever written! He'd suddenly changed the way that this music was conceived.
I found this story so fascinating that I wanted to pursue it a bit more, to find out more about Joachim's world: Who were his loyal friends? Why the big bust-up with Liszt? Why the almost patriotic feeling toward Brahms and Schumann? Literally thousands of people were guided by his opinions and by his performances - and that requires quite an extraordinary character.
NG: Indeed, it does - and clearly Joachim's influence was not just in technical matters, but also in broader aesthetic ones, including the very way in which the "school" of Brahms and Schumann developed.
Coming back to the album for a second - I can imagine what a challenge it must have been to whittle down the selections for this CD. One decision that you made was to include the Bruch Violin Concerto, which of course was heavily edited by Joachim. But I imagine that you were at least tempted to include the Brahms Violin Concerto - which was not only edited by Joachim, but also dedicated to him. Of course, it's also a much longer work [generally about 35-40 minutes, compared to about 22-26 minutes for the Bruch]. So, was the Brahms a consideration - or are you saving that for a future CD?
DH: Well, you're right, it was an agony of choice because there are so many amazing pieces that Joachim is associated with; and the Brahms, of course, was very much at the top of my list. At the same time, I also have a soft spot for the Schumann Violin Concerto - even though Joachim hardly played it.
NG: Yes, he had a fairly complex relationship to this work [Schumann's concerto, dedicated to Joachim, was completed in October 1854, just prior to his collaboration on the so-called F-E-A Sonata, an excerpt of which, by Brahms, is featured on Hope's CD; Schumann's concerto was subsequently criticized by Joachim, who performed it but once, and the work was largely unknown until the late-1930s].
DH: Right, he didn't take to it. The Brahms concerto, of course, is magnificent in its splendor, but it's of almost Mt. Everest-like proportion. And in the end, I decided on the Bruch: it's a piece that I've wrestled with since I was a little boy, and it has accompanied my whole life; it has absolutely everything that a violinist could dream of, and has a very touching quality about it. I felt that this was the time when I wanted to tackle it on CD - and nowadays you generally only have one shot at recording a work; we're not in the position we were in the 1970s or 80s, where you could be comfortable knowing you'd have three or four recording passes of a piece. Now, you've got just one shot.
NG: Right, and then it lives forever.
DH: Exactly - it lives forever. And indeed, timing was a consideration here - because I wanted on this disc to give as much of a retrospective of Joachim as I could, and that meant that chamber music would be extremely important; and if I had included the Brahms concerto, I would have run out of time. For me, it was important that Joachim be represented in as many ways as possible - but making the choices certainly was not easy.
NG: I can imagine. And the Bruch, of course, is a great choice; we're so familiar with the Finale especially, but when we hear your wonderful performance, we realize what a tremendous gift of melody he had - as in the opening "Prelude".
DH: Yes, it's amazing.
NG: You noted in your liner notes what a vast difference there is between the Bruch Violin Concerto we all know - which was heavily edited by Joachim, and that found in Bruch's original manuscript, which most of us don't know. Can you talk about some of those differences - and how it would be to play the original version?
DH: I actually did toy with the idea performing the original; when I recorded the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto [in E-, Op.64], I went with the original version - but that was a different decision on my part, because Mendelssohn often said, toward the end of his life, that he wasn't sure which versions of which pieces were better; and that's why I went with that conscious decision to play from the original manuscript.
But with the Bruch - because Joachim was so instrumental in changing the notes and phrasing, in rewriting the cadenzas, and in essence changing the whole mood of the piece while likewise making it more violinistic - it didn't take me long to realize that on a Joachim CD, I would have to perform the thoroughly corrected version. Still, I do think it's fascinating to look at pieces in their original context, because it's never a matter of saying this version is better; rather, it's just presenting a work in a state that came straight from the pen of the composer - and as an interpreter, it's fascinating to see what he was thinking.
In fact, Bruch was terrified that the correspondence between he and Joachim would be made public, and that everybody would think that Joachim had actually written the piece. This shows that even a composer of the skill of Bruch had to bow down to Joachim in making the piece as famous as it became - even though it really distressed Bruch for the rest of his life, since he sold the piece for next to nothing, and never really earned a penny in royalties; he would later rail against violinist who would come to visit him, saying, "Don't you realize that I've written three violin concertos? Why do you only play the first one?"
NG: Yes, it's the curse of the early hit.
DH: That's it - it was same with Beethoven and his Septet [in Eb, Op.20] [from 1800]; Beethoven couldn't stand it!
NG: Given that Joachim was also a composer himself, one can imagine that he did more than just add some new fingerings or re-write a cadenza, but rather that his changes would alter the character and content of various passages. As such, perhaps you can later come back to Deutsche Gramophone and convince them that a new recording is warranted - as a new rendering of the Bruch concerto.
DH: Yes, or maybe I could release it in an online version… nowadays with the possibilities of the Internet we do have chances of putting things out like that. I was speaking to a pianist the other day who was talking about his dream - which is to one day release different versions of his recordings; he would first present the version he was most happy with, and then six month later he'd re-edit it and release a different cut - like a director's cut.
NG: Yes, with the digital format, it's possible to do all kinds of things.
Okay, so beyond the Bruch, you also give us - much as you did with your Baroque Journey CD - this wonderful smorgasbord of shorter works and movements by various other composers who in some way fell within the orbit of Joachim: four works by Brahms - the "Scherzo" from the F-E-A Sonata ["frei aber einsam" ("free but lonely"), a collaborative work written for Joachim by Brahms, Schumann, and Albert Dietrich], two of his Hungarian Dances [Nos. 5 and 7] and the "Wiegenlied" [Op.91, No.2]; then a wonderful work by Clara Schumann, from her 3 Romances for the Piano [1.Andante molto]; Dvorák's "Humoreque" [Op.101, No.7]; and a Lied of Schubert [Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D.774. Again, so many choices, and it would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall witnessing your process of elimination; any particular stories of the method to your madness in whittling it down to these choices you'd like to share?
DH: Well, as you suggest, it was not very pleasant being around me at that time, because to have to whittle down great works of literature in this way is nothing I'd wish on anybody. The structure of a CD is very important for me; it should be like a journey for the listener, with all the right changes and contrasts from piece to piece. Some may put on a CD and listen to only one or two tracks, but I like to imagine him sitting down for the whole thing, taking in this rich musical or historical journey. I never just throw tracks together; they all need to be part of a larger concept.
It was a major challenge in this case because of the various idioms and different styles of the works; but there were always certain pieces that stuck out for me: the first of the Clara Schumann Romances, for example, is just a beautiful, magnificent piece; it was a piece the Clara and Joachim played together many times on tour, including once for King George V of Hanover, who apparently went into ecstasy when he heard it.
There was always a special reason for including each piece. The "Scherzo" of Brahms, for example: as you know, there's the wonderful story of Joachim arriving at the Schumanns' house, listening to these four movements, and having to identify who wrote which movement - and guessing correctly; each movement was of course based on the F-A-E - or "frei aber einsam" - motto, which was such a representation of the Romantic spirit. I could have done both of Brahms' Op.91 songs, but I went with the "Geistliches Wiegenlied" [spiritual lullaby] because to me it has an almost religious depth of feeling which I find so mesmerizing - and doing both songs would have been overkill and would have altered the harmonic structure I wanted for the disc.
So, it's a question of gut instinct and deep thought, while trying different things out - and hopefully come up with the right selections and the right order.
NG: It does seem to have been a challenge - but likewise, as you say, a great opportunity to create for the listener a certain way in which we can hear this entire period, and the legacy of Joachim in particular. By the way, I imagine that it must have been painful not to include any Robert Schumann on the CD.
DH: Very painful. And yet I felt that Brahms had to be the central figure; and if I wasn't going to include his Violin Concerto, I had to have a substantial collection of other works by him. Also, there's not that much violin and piano music by Schumann, other than the violin sonatas - unless you get into the transcriptions. Also, in defense, we do have Clara Schumann. But if I could have included the second movement of the Schumann Violin Concerto, that would have made me very happy too.
NG: Yes, again, way too many choices - perhaps there can be a Volume 2 of this collection.
DH: Well, the CD is in fact just one aspect of this project: this whole year, and much of the next two years, will be devoted to five or six different programs based around Joachim. I'm currently on tour in Germany playing one of these programs, and only a few of the pieces match the CD - because in a concert setting, I can play different things, such as the Schumann Piano Quartet [in Eb, Op.44], or the entire F-A-E Sonata, or more Dvorák, and so forth. With the CD, we're limited on time, but with a set of concerts, one is not so limited, and the potential for variation is enormous. And that's very exciting for me.
NG: That's very fortunate for your fans in Germany and Austria - as I look at your concert schedule. Do you know if you'll likewise be coming to the States at some point soon with this program?
DH: Yes, in fact I'll be at the Music@Menlo Festival this summer, as well as to the Aspen and Santa Fe Chamber Festivals, to do the Joachim program.
NG: Well that is terrific; as you may know, I had the pleasure of interviewing [Music@Menlo Artistic Directors] David Finckel and Wu Han, and their concerts take place just down the street from our offices here in Palo Alto - so I will definitely stop by and say hello.
NG: One last question on the CD: as we've discussed, the real focus here is Joachim, and you present two wonderful jewels by the man himself. Obviously, Brahms is a central figure in the program - as is the Bruch Concerto, but these works by Joachim seem to have an air of centrality on the CD (not least by being the 6th and 8th of 12 tracks). In hearing these two pieces - and especially the Notturno - one clearly senses that this was not a man bent on dazzling, at least not overtly; he was not a Paganini, as you say, but rather one interested in the reflective, the noble, the tempered, and the elegant in expression. Am I right that this was a big part of your vision in making this album - to share this identity of Joachim with us, and to underscore his considerable impact on the aesthetic trends of music in the second half of the 19th century?
DH: Yes, very much so; this is the vibe that I get from listening to the few recordings that we have of Joachim's playing - but more importantly, by listening to or reading the eyewitness accounts, whether by Schumann, or his pupils: they say that when he played the Beethoven Concerto, particularly the second movement, it sounded as if he was improvising; it had a freedom that was quite extraordinary, and yet it was always measured. And I have this sense of him - this nobility, as you say; I deliberately chose pieces that represented two completely different times in his life. The first, the "Romanze" [from 3 Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op.2], was written by a young man who had just arrived in Weimar; he was Liszt's concertmaster; he chose to impress, but in his own way - with elegance and a beautiful sound. With the second piece, the Notturno, you see what happens just a few years later, when he left Weimar for Hanover, and immersed himself into the orchestral world - and came into close contact with Brahms and Schumann; he becomes a totally different person. Yet, his humility remains - as does his motto, "free but lonely" - which gives him a kind signature that he really embodies.
NG: There are passages in the Notturno that do display some technical challenges, but overall one senses a level of measured aesthetic in his work. As you just mentioned, Joachim was associated with Liszt in his youth; do you know if there are any works by Liszt - who did write a number of pieces for violin and piano - that bear some association with Joachim?
DH: No, not that I know of. There was a violin concerto by Liszt that has been lost, unfortunately - but I think it comes from a different period. It's true that there are quite a number of pieces surviving for violin and piano by Liszt, which are very mixed in genre, but as far as I know, they were never performed by Joachim. He was very strong-willed as a young man, and when he made the decision to break with Liszt, he wrote these very open and quite brusque letters saying, "I disassociate myself from your music," and the like. Joachim didn't understand the direction in which Liszt was going. And he got a lot of stink for it - especially from Wagner, who jumped in, as always, with an open letter. So, you have these two sides attacking each other: the Schumanns and Brahms on the one side, and Liszt and Wagner on the other. I do think that if he had stayed in Weimar, and had become a natural successor to Liszt - which is no doubt what Liszt wanted - then we'd no doubt have a violin concerto, or at least a tone poem for violin and orchestra, by Liszt; and probably a violin concerto by Wagner. But the fact is he didn't, and instead we have the concertos by Brahms and Dvorák - which goes to show what an instrumental decision it was for Joachim to leave Weimar.
NG: It was also important, no doubt, in entrenching Liszt's and Wagner's own viewpoints - helping them to mobilize their "armies" to back up their position: to advance their "music of the future", as they saw it, along with forging a new status of the composer. Well, it's clear that you've given us a wonderful program with great music, and much to reflect on - and I congratulate you on this great CD.
DH: Thank you.
NG: So, moving on to other violin activities; you have indeed established yourself as anything but limited in scope: playing everything from early Baroque to Contemporary classical - on which you've focused a great deal, including giving several world premieres - to exploring realms outside of classical, including collaborations with Indian musicians Ravi Shankar and Zakir Hussain; and much more, such as the multi-genre things that you're doing at Savannah. I know that early in your life you enjoyed the company of Yehudi Menuhin, who then continued to be a great friend and inspiration as your career took off. Of course, Menuhin was similarly eclectic in his output. Is this aesthetic eclecticism an outgrowth of that inspiration, or something that was spawned naturally on your own?
DH: I think that there's no question that having the extraordinary luck of growing up around the Menuhin household was a major influence; this happened through the most bizarre set of circumstances: the fact that my mother went in for a part-time job at a temp agency, where there were a number of different and quite high-powered secretarial jobs available - one was for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the other was for Yehudi Menuhin.
NG: Wow, that's quite a choice!
DH: Yes, it was quite a choice. Menuhin she knew because he'd come and performed when she was a little girl in South Africa; so she thought, "Why not - it's a six month job, let's give it a go." And six months turned into 26 years, and secretary turned into manager, and somebody that really governed his life for so long. So through that very strange set of circumstances, I was born into a world which was very musically eclectic, and my earliest memories of that house are, of course, of Menuhin - but also the other musicians who came to visit: people like Ravi Shankar and [jazz violinist] Stéphane Grappelli; but also [cellist Mstislav] Rostropovich and [pianist] Wilhelm Kempf. So, you had this extraordinary mixture of personalities and music; and yet the key thing that I learned very early on was the seriousness and respect that Menuhin gave to those musicians, regardless of where they came from musically.
That seriousness is something I've kept, and therefore I really try to avoid falling into the trap of pigeon-holing types of music and musicians; because I believe when you have a great musician in front of you - if you have your ears wide open enough - you can learn something from each of them. And I'd say that I've experienced that 99% of the time. Now, does performing Indian ragas directly impact my performance of Beethoven's Violin Concerto? Probably not. But does it open my ears in search of new rhythms, or totally change the way that I hear sound? Absolutely. And can I use that in a performance of the Beethoven's Concerto? Absolutely. There is always a kind of a correlation between the two, and it's a great inspiration to sit down with Zakir Hussein or [double bassist / composer] Edgar Meyer or even Sting, and talk about music - and see where they are coming from, agreeing or disagreeing with them. It's part of the curiosity that we talked about in the beginning, just like essences flowing through my veins.
NG: Indeed, great music is great music, and it's a phenomenal thing that it can take on so many different guises, sonorities, techniques, and approaches and reach a level of consummate artistry in each one; and so it's almost tragic when musicians don't have the training or the opportunities to explore other realms. Sometimes it may influence how one performs other repertoire, but as a life experience, it can help one become a richer person.
NG: And it seems very clear that you do embrace that philosophy. In learning, for example, about the Kristallnacht concert you organized [the November 9, 2008 program Hope produced at Berlin's Tempelhof Airport, commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Kristalllnacht, the tragic night of systematic attacks against Jews in Germany and Austria, November 9-10, 1938] - it's clear how important it was for you to make this not just a classical event, but to involve musicians of all styles, to give the audience a wider sense of the disparate styles that can be linked to that period and that message.
DH: Yes, as far as the Kristallnacht concert was concerned - it was such a major event to put together, and everybody told me that I couldn't do it, that I wouldn't be able to pull it off. And when people say that to me, it usually just makes my blood boil - and makes me want to do it even more. There was so much symbolism: being the [recently closed] Tempelhof airport, a piece of Nazi-era architecture, on the 70th Anniversary of that terrible day, having just a handful of musicians would have missed the point. It needed to be about artists getting together to "do something" - and that's why we called it "Tu vas" (do something) - because it
NG: It's great that on your website you have an extended video extended video which can give people a real flavor of the event; it makes me wonder if there's going to be a full-length DVD of the concert - so inspirational and with such a wealth of talent. Is that possible, or are there too many licensing restrictions?
DH: We do have the whole concert, which we sent out to everybody involved in it, but it is an issue of licensing: all of these artists [Hélène Grimaud, Max Raabe, Thomas Quasthoff, Sol Gabetta, Menahem Pressler, the reggae artist Patrice, etc.] are exclusive artists of different record companies - and we'd be in difficult waters trying to release it, because the whole thing was pulled out of a hat at the last minute. But I'm very proud that we made it happen, and that the German government participated as well. I thought it was extraordinary that there had been nothing significant planned that day, and that's why I wanted to make it happen.
NG: It just goes to show that if you have a great idea, people will follow and want to join in - whether in politics or in the arts. And now it seems that you've taken this message of "Tu was" - of "do something" - beyond the Kristallnacht concert, that it's become a kind of mantra for you: you've had a second "Tu was" concert related to global warming, as well as other programs related to social causes - such as that related to the "Forbidden Music" created at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and others. It reminds me of the Jewish call of "Tikkun olam" (healing the world) - and given your celebrity status and the opportunities it affords, it seems that this has become part of who you are; I imagine that this too you got from your parents.
DH: Yes, this comes very much from my parents - but also from the many meetings and collaborations I've had with musicians and people I really admire - like Menachem Pressler, for example, who is a great guiding force in my life, and an amazing, unique musician; he himself could write several books about inspiration; Anne Sofie von Otter is another example. It's those kinds of people who have often sparked ideas that I've then taken on.
And yet often it's the mere coincidences that seem to happen a lot in my life. For example, I came to the Theresienstadt repertoire by accident: I was driving home one night listening to the radio and a string trio came on - an amazing piece that I didn't know; I pulled over and wrote down the name of the composer - Gideon Klein. I had no idea who Gideon Klein was, so I got home and "googled" him - and suddenly I had this wealth of information about Theresienstadt. Previously, I had thought Theresienstadt was just a concentration camp, I had no idea what was going on there, that the Nazis had allowed a vibrant musical life to exist there [the Czech concentration camp, also referred to as Terezin, was for a while held up as a "model" Jewish settlement by the Nazis, and included a lively cultural life with numerous musicians, composers, poets, artists, and intellectuals - most of whom perished in the closing years of the war].
NG: Yes, it is an incredible story.
DH: From there, I've gone onto all these different tracks: I've now spent fifteen years of my life on this subject - in all different formats of researching, collecting works, talking to survivors, and so forth. I feel it's something that has to be done.
NG: I too was amazed to learn how many musicians were at Theresienstadt - enough to have two full symphony orchestras playing at the same time. And the composers were not exactly conservative wallflowers; they were quite cutting-edge; for example, the Sonata for Solo Violin you recorded by Erwin Schulhoff - it almost sounds like a piece by [contemporary American composer/violinist] Mark O'Connor.
DH: Yes, it's amazing. You know, just two days ago I was in Berlin and had lunch with Coco Schumann - a jazz and slide guitarist who is a survivor of both Theresienstadt and Auschwitz; he played in the so-called "Ghetto-Swingers" at Theresienstadt. He's now in his mid-80s. We were talking about [Theresienstadt composers] Victor Ullmann and about Gideon Klein, and he says, "Oh yeah, I remember Victor." It's the same when Menachem Pressler starts talking about these great musicians of the past, like Toscanini and Bruno Walter. Suddenly you realize that you're in this world that we're slowly but surely losing, and in a sense I love clinging to it.
NG: Happily, it is being maintained by people such as yourself - and by working with people like Pressler [with whom Hope has worked as part of the Beaux Arts Trio since 2002]. It was just amazing to see Pressler, this 84-year old pianist, perform the Beethoven [Piano Sonata No.32 in C-,] Opus 111 - such power and force.; clearly, that man has a strong will.
DH: Yes, he's amazing, absolutely amazing.
NG: And so, am I right to assume that the "Tu was" mantra will continue with other programs and other causes going forward?
DH: Oh, definitely, yes. I've already had two other such projects that I had to "put on ice" for a while because they were taking so much time - so much organization and planning. That's one thing I learned in the first "Tu was" program [the Kristallnacht concert]; we made it work, but it was such a last-minute kind of thing. I love the idea of doing something universal - to fight for something. And in fact I am working on another major project, and as soon as I can give it justice time-wise, and can get the people I want for it together, it will be launched.
It's so tempting, because all you need to do nowadays is to read a newspaper or scan the Internet to see the many problems out there; it can be so frustrating to wonder why people are not doing more. I believe in these causes passionately, but there has to be a balance.
NG: Of course, but it's clearly a wonderful thing for both sides - you're bringing attention and inspiration for a good cause, and you're also demonstrating the power of music to transcend and to inspire - and especially in these days when we have to ensure that there's a younger audience for classical music. There's no doubt that when you combine music with a cause - and especially combine classical with pop or rock music -it suddenly becomes relevant for people who didn't think it mattered to them.
NG: Well, there's so many other things that we could talk about - such as your writing. I'm wondering, for example, when your books are going to be available in English [Hope has published three books, published in German: two books dedicated to some lighthearted aspects of the classical music world Toi, toi, toi (Break a leg) and Wann darf ich klatschen? (When should I clap?); and a memoir, Familienstücke] (Family Album)?
DH: I'm wondering that too! [Laughs] This is one thing that really is a thorn in my side: I've got three books out in a number of different languages - in Korean, Japanese, Russian and even a Croatian version; but we don't yet have an English version, and so that's something that I need to devote some time to.
NG: I have no doubt that when you do, you'll find a very strong readership.
Finally, I've looked at your upcoming concert schedule - where you're doing some Bach concertos; and some Mozart and Beethoven sonatas, and a number of contemporary works; can you give us a sense of what your next recording might be?
DH: Yes - without giving too much away, I'm going to focus on Entartete Musik ["Degenerate music", a label given by the Nazi government in reference to music by Jewish or Jewish-origin composers, or composers whose works were deemed too "modernist" - including Mendelssohn, Mahler, Korngold, Hindemith, Webern, Berg, etc. - and thus deemed harmful and un-German]. I want to do a big project in a few years - it will take that long to get it up and running; I want to do a disc dedicated to that time and the wave of musicians who were forced to leave Europe.
Also, coming up - next month, in fact - is the world premiere of a violin concerto that I commissioned by a young Lebanese composer by the name of Bechara El Khoury.
NG: Oh yes, I saw that in your schedule.
DH: El Khoury is someone I find to have an amazingly strong voice - and a very lyrical voice. He's written a piece for me called The War Concerto, which is somewhat based on the story of my great-grandparents' immigration from Germany - but also based on his experiences growing up in Lebanon and Paris. I'm very excited about it: we're going to do the world premiere at my festival in Mecklenburg in June, and we have a number of performances scheduled around the world over the next couple of years.
NG: It all sounds very exciting and interesting - and we'll look forward to hearing that concerto, and indeed to all your work at the two great festivals in your charge: at Mecklenburg and also in Savannah, Georgia [the Savannah Music Festival] - which certainly seems like quite a rich and eclectic show.
DH: Oh it is - and do come if you can: Savannah is an amazing place; it has an infectious quality, not just for the audience members, but for all the musicians who come there; all genres are represented - and one thing I truly love is getting folks together from different sides of the pond.
NG: Well, thank you Daniel - I've really enjoyed getting to know a bit more about you, and all the good work you're doing.
DH: Thank you very much for your time.