January 22, 2019
Violinist Daniel Hope has been soloist, first violinist, guest conductor, and “artistic partner” with the ensemble, and yet when he leads the New Century Chamber Orchestra Feb. 7-10, it will be a notable debut, his first appearance as NCCO’s new music director.
Not long after S.F. Classical Voice’s roundup report of many current and pending departures from leading positions, there is a blizzard of renewal in Bay Area arts, with news of Esa-Pekka Salonen succeeding Michael Tilson Thomas, Richard Egarr following Nicholas McGegan at Philharmonia Baroque next year, and Jeremy Geffen succeeding Matías Tarnopolsky at Cal Performances. Pocket Opera founder Donald Pippin became emeritus as Nicolas Aliaga Garcia took over as artistic director, Jeffrey Jordan as executive director, and Chung-Wai Soong as general manager. There will be more to come.
Succession for NCCO was a “process” — after Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg left in 2016, Hope filled in as first violinist/conductor, but his many engagements and obligations in Europe did not allow him to fill the position of music director.
He later agreed to a three-year arrangement, “of temporary and limited nature,” as “artistic partner.” Only last year did he sign a five-year contract as full-fledged music director, and these concerts serve as Hope’s debut in that capacity.
The theme is “recomposition,” with Max Richter’s Recomposed: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons from Hope’s 2012 bestselling Deutsche Grammophon album featured on the concert. Rather than variations on a theme, Richter’s work discards most of Vivaldi’s original material, phasing and looping what remains, and emphasizing Richter’s own style grounded in minimalism and contemporary electronica.
Although Ivan Hewett’s review in The Telegraph called it “Max Richter’s intelligent and deeply felt homage to Vivaldi’s great work,” Hewett also allowed how traditionalists responded to it as
... the latest sign of the gleeful embrace of classical music by the remix culture, which strikes many with horror. They say creativity in classical music is all about individual genius wrestling with recalcitrant musical material. Tearing bleeding chunks out of what already exists, stitching them into the semblance of a new piece and plastering an incessant beat over the top is just too easy. More than that, it’s grotesque, like placing a classical Greek head on a clubber’s body.”
Richter sees none of those extremes in the work:
I took the opening motif, which I always thought was a dazzling moment in the Vivaldi, but in the original it’s only four bars. I thought, ‘Well, why don’t I just treat this like a loop, like something you might hear in dance music, and just loop it and intensify it, and cut and paste — jump-cut around in that texture, but keep that groove going.’
I think [the work] has been received in the spirit that I wrote it, which is, in a way, an act of love towards this fantastic masterpiece. And, you know, my piece doesn’t erase the Vivaldi original. It’s a conversation from a viewpoint. I think this is just one way to engage with it.”
The recording topped the iTunes classical chart in the U.S. and U.K. and some 22 countries, receiving several rave reviews. With 130,000 copies sold, it has become one of the most successful classical recordings of recent times.
The program also includes Hope’s solo in the second movement from Schumann’s Violin Concerto arranged by Benjamin Britten; another Britten arrangement, of Henry Purcell’s Chacony in G minor; and two Renaissance inspired works: Peter Warlock’s 1926 work Capriol Suite, based on dances by Thoinot Arbeau, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.
The concerts are presented on four evenings: Feb. 7 in the First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Feb. 8 in the Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto; Feb. 9 in the Wilsey Center for the Arts, San Francisco; and Feb. 10 in the Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael.