Hope/MacGregor/Britten Sinfonia, Assembly Rooms/Pavilion, Bath <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The violinist Daniel Hope spent his infancy in Yehudi Menuhin's house, and East Meets West, his new CD, echoes Menuhin's collaboration with Ravi Shankar, West Meets East, of four decades ago. Hope now commissions new works, and rescues undervalued old ones, so it was no surprise to find him doing both at the Bath Festival. With piano accompaniment, he started his first concert, also called "East Meets West", with the lusty rhythms of De Falla, then moved eastwards via Ravel and Bartok to Takemitsu, before new-minted musical tributes to Menuhin and Shankar with a North Indian ensemble.

With Ravel's Tzigane as the bridge, the journey made musical sense, and since the violin is integral to classical Indian music, Hope's centrality throughout was appropriate. When he joined the sitar-player Gaurav Mazumdar and tabla-player Shahbaz Hussain sitting cross-legged on the floor, tossing melodies and rhythms companionably to and fro, the fusion was impressively organic.

Next morning, partnered by the formidable pianist Sebastian Knauer, Hope showed what he could do in conventional recital mode. Schnittke's first violin sonata burst volcanically into life, Copland's Nocturne became an exquisite rumination, and Brahms's third violin sonata emerged shorn of excess sentiment. But the abiding memory after both concerts is of Hope himself: an almost self-effacing virtuoso, a wonderfully soft, singing tone, razor-sharp harmonics and infinite gradations of pianissimo.

This is the first time that the pianist Joanna MacGregor has been at the helm of this festival and, hands-on in every sense, she has breathed new life into it: the mix of genres has never been more stimulating - sometimes all in one concert, with her performance with the saxophonist Andy Sheppard and Britten Sinfonia being a perfect example. The evening had three elements: Bach, Stravinsky, and the jazz that MacGregor and Sheppard have put on disc. Stravinsky the jazzer came across in Ragtime and Dumbarton Oaks, but in their clever reworking of The Art of Fugue, Bach the jazzer emerged, too.

Comments