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Genres musicaux : Ambient - New Age - Spiritual - Classic - World

Daniel Hope: "Spheres".

During this week from the 1th to the 7th of April, at 12:00 AM and 12:00 PM on Misterium, and the following week at 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM (Madrid Time) on Misterium II, you can listen to excerpts from the new album of Daniel Hope: "Spheres".

Daniel Hope: Spheres

Daniel Hope



 Review from www.deutschegrammophon.com



For as long as mankind has gazed up into the night sky at the stars and planets following their ordained course, the imagination has been set free. In ancient days, people spoke of “music of the spheres”, ghostly sounds that were long thought to have been created by the planetary bodies brushing past each other. The music they made was ethereal and, quite literally, otherworldly.

“I’ve been fascinated for a long time by this idea of ‘spherical music’ and by the philosophers, mathematicians and musicians who expounded their theory of musica universalis over the centuries,” explains Daniel Hope. “It started with Pythagoras and extended to some of those extraordinary German thinkers such as Johannes Kepler who were convinced that music was created when planets move or collide, and that music had a mathematical foundation, a kind of astronomical harmony. I thought it was significant that these were brilliant scientists and mathematicians, not just soothsayers. My aim was to make an album touching on this sublime theme, while also discovering what composers nowadays might write when thinking in this context.”

“Spheres” can be interpreted in a number of ways, beginning with the exploration of pieces that ally themselves to the concept of extraterrestial music which can as easily come from the 17th century as from the 21st. But the circularity of a sphere, the shape’s roundness, can also be related to the use of repetition in much of modern music – from the minimalism of Philip Glass via the fusing of the minimal with a more overtly emotional language, as in Michael Nyman’s Trysting Fields (music from the soundtrack to Peter Greenaway’s film Drowning by Numbers), to the quirky and immediately communicative Eliza Aria by Elena Kats-Chernin.

In the case of Fauré’s choral Cantique de Jean Racine – as Hope suggests, a somewhat unusual addition to the programme – the words and their meaning actually mesh perfectly with the album’s spirit: “The hymn text talks about the ‘everlasting light of heaven and earth’. But there was also a personal reason for my choosing it: I sang it when I was at Highgate School and have always adored this piece. There are a number of versions as well as various sketches of this student work. This beautiful arrangement by John Rutter, himself a former Highgate pupil, also aligns with my idea that if I chose existing works we’d do them in contemporary arrangements.”

In that same spirit, the pieces by Bach and Johann Paul von Westhoff appear in modern transcriptions. “The Westhoff is for me,” Hope reveals, “one of the most remarkable pieces ever written: he was late 17th century and was so far ahead of his time. He was clearly an extraordinary violinist – and a visionary one too. We all know about Bach’s solo violin sonatas and partitas, but without Westhoff, who composed a set of six solo violin partitas in Dresden in 1696, Bach might not have written his. In my view Westhoff almost certainly provided the model.”

Hope juxtaposes these older pieces, albeit in modern arrangements, with music of our own time. The idea of music emerging from the planets as they pass each other has an immediate resonance for the player of a stringed instrument on which music is created by the hair of the bow passing over the strings, setting off vibrations. “You pick up a lot of peripheral tonality and that, I felt, was an interesting analogy, because it’s what Pythagoras believed in as well – that there’s this peripheral sound which emerges from the planets. It’s quite a strange thought, but one I find riveting. And that’s why I wanted to make a contemporary statement – in taking existing pieces which I felt were written in this vein, and also by commissioning new pieces. That’s how I met Alex Baranowski, who wrote Musica universalis and Gabriel Prokofiev, whose piece is actually called Spheres. That was what I was hoping for: newly composed works which would support the dramaturgy of the album. For this reason, the order of pieces is also very important.”

Novelties of a different sort infuse this project: it was the first time Daniel Hope had worked with Simon Halsey, the first time he’d recorded in the striking and acoustically wonderful studio of the Funkhaus, the old East Berlin radio building, the first time he’d recorded with the Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin, and also his first encounter with a new recording team. Two of the composers, however, were old friends: Karl Jenkins and Ludovico Einaudi. “I met Karl in London close on 20 years ago and we’d always had the idea of doing something together, but it never happened – until now. I really wanted something for violin and choir from him – especially as the Rundfunkchor Berlin, in effect the chorus of the Berlin Philharmonic, makes such a mesmerizing sound – so he made a new arrangement of one of his works for me. Ludovico Einaudi and I met through mutual friends and we have subsequently performed together. His music has something deeply touching about it. It needs incredible integrity and intensity from the players, and then it really inspires.”

Berlin by Overnight by Max Richter – whose new vision of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (which Daniel Hope has already recorded for Deutsche Grammophon) has been delighting audiences wherever it’s performed – provides yet another texture on the album. And Alexey Igudesman – one half of the musical comedy duo Igudesman and Joo – offers one of the recording’s most magical tracks, as well as another opportunity for Simon Halsey and the Rundfunkchor Berlin to shine.

So, as you hold this circular CD, ready to spin in its player, think of the movements of the planets above us – movements connected with music by Pythagoras – and reflect on how much, yet how little, has changed in 2500 years!

James Jolly

Posted on 2013-04-01 01:48:06.087