Daniel Hope has already recorded a disc of Bach concertos and
a disc of Mendelssohn concertos with the Chamber Orchestra of
Europe. In many ways this new issue follows on from the Bach disc,
using modern instruments but adopting period performance practice.
The continuo group includes a number of distinguished performers:
William Conway (cello), Kirstian Bezuidenhout (keyboard), Elizabeth
Kenny (lute, theorbo). Working without a conductor freed Hope
to experiment with improvisation and ornamentation as well as
taking a hand in the sound that the ensemble makes.
The first concerto
on the disc, L’Inquietudine, opens fast and furious.
The ensemble strings play crisply and rhythmically, very much
off the string but with an intensity which is entirely modern.
The result sounds striking but also a little hard-edged, played
with this degree of crispness. With the bow off the string,
the modern strings lack the warmth that playing with lower tension
gut lines bring. This opening movement characterises the remainder
of the disc: it is highly disciplined, superbly played but very
The slow movement
of this concerto again uses rather strong string tone in the
ensemble passages but this is contrasted with a fine line from
Hope. In the final movement he treats us to positively lovely
streams of notes.
The disc is not
all high pressure. Hope certainly knows when to ease off. He
does so in the last movement of L’Inquietudine and similarly
in the opening of the Concerto in E minor. Here the element
of contrast is striking, between the hard-edged rather massive
tutti sections and the smoother-lined, rather delicate moments.
Whatever you think
about the high pressure element, overall the playing is superb.
In the slow movement of the E minor concerto, both soloist and
orchestra produce some stunning translucent delicately-textured
moments. Hope’s solo line manages to spin a superb web of notes,
never seeming hampered or constrained by period performance
For the third item
on the disc, instead of a concerto we get Vivaldi’s Sonata for
two violins which consists of variations on La Follia.
Here Hope is joined by Lorenza Borrani, the leader of the Chamber
Orchestra of Europe. The playing has a brilliant hardness which
is partly modified by the lovely sound from the continuo with
fretted instruments to the fore.
The Sonata is followed
by the Concerto in E flat major, La Tempesta di Mare.
As in the previous concertos the ensemble is crisp but chiselled.
This is moderated by Hope’s solo line where he delivers the
cascades of notes in quite brilliant fashion.
That a warm, sweet
tone is not beyond the ensemble’s parameters is demonstrated
by the aria from Vivaldi’s opera Andromeda Liberata.
Here Anne Sofie von Otter’s lovely mezzo-soprano voice is balanced
beautifully by Hope’s obbligato. His violin playing here develops
a wonderful sweetness which he never quite manages in any of
the other pieces on the disc.
The final work here
is the concerto in D minor for two violins and cello from L’Estro
Armonico with the other solo violin again played by Lorenza
Borrani and solo cello by William Conway. Perhaps because the
solo part is in fact played by three people, this concerto seems
to have a warmth which is lacking in some of the other pieces
in this collection.
In many ways this
is an admirable disc, with some superbly disciplined playing
and an interesting dialogue between modern ways and period practice.
It is unfortunate that the end result seems to have generated
a rather hard-edged product. Some listeners may respond well,
but I would certainly advise listening before buying. Whilst
Daniel Hope’s playing is superb, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe
may be a bit of an acquired taste in this repertoire.