New Classical Tracks: The Romantic Violinist

by Julie Amacher
April 5, 2011

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Daniel Hope: The Romantic Violinist: A Celebration of Joseph Joachim (Deutsche Grammophon 15312-02) (Courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon)

For as long as Daniel Hope can remember, the name of the violinist Joseph Joachim has intrigued him. Then, one night after a concert in Munich, a woman gave Hope a book she had written about Joachim. After further research Hope discovered Joachim was not only an extraordinary violinist, but a musical visionary of the 19th century.

Joachim always focused on how he could serve the music, treating the works of the masters with great respect. His interpretations were intellectual, and deeply spiritual.

On his new recording, "The Romantic Violinist," Daniel Hope pays homage to Joseph Joachim by sharing works this great violinist composed and inspired.

Joseph Joachim was a gifted Austro-Hungarian violinist who had a great impact on classical music and the violin writing of various composers in the late 19th century. He was just 12 years old when his teacher, Felix Mendelssohn, took him to London to play the Beethoven Violin Concerto. The work had been forgotten for nearly 40 years after its failed premiere. After Joachim's astonishing performance, the concerto finally earned its place in the violin repertoire as a masterpiece.

Not only that, he also influenced the concertos of Dvorak, Schumann and Brahms--and the beloved First Concerto by Max Bruch. Bruch didn't have Joachim's technical understanding of the violin, so he asked Joachim to revise the work. Joachim was quite pleased with their collaboration. Later he declared Bruch's violin concerto, "the richest, most seductive" of all German violin concertos. In the first movement, it takes less than a minute to hear the sensuous interplay between soloist and orchestra. The heart of this concerto is the lyrical Adagio. It takes a passionate performer like Daniel Hope to expose the vulnerability of the gorgeous melodic line.

It was Joseph Joachim who introduced the young Johannes Brahms to Robert and Clara Schumann in 1853. To show her appreciation, Clara Schumann dedicated her Romance No. 1 for violin and piano to Joachim. She and Joachim performed it together on several occasions. Daniel Hope and his chamber partner German pianist Sebastian Knauer strike a delicate balance on this tender chamber piece.

Brahms composed various works for Joseph Joachim including the song, "Geistliches Wiegenlied (Holy Cradle Song), written in honor of the first child born to Joachim and his wife. The song was to be played by Brahms at the piano, Joachim on viola (not violin), and Joachim's wife Amalie sang. Mezzo-soprano Anne-Sophie von Otter joins Daniel Hope, who taught himself to play viola for this recording.

Joseph Joachim composed several works for his own performance. Often virtuoso performers write music that's flashy with no substance. Unlike his contemporary Nicolo Paganini, Joachim had no interest in showing off. Joachim's music is technically challenging, and expressive. His great musicianship shines through in two little known works on this recording. His Romance No. 1 is an early work, written shortly after he arrived in Weimar and met Franz Liszt. Joachim's Notturno for violin and orchestra is a gorgeous tone poem scored without violins creating a deeper orchestral color. Daniel Hope's rich, warm tone stands on its own, and sometimes it becomes part of the orchestral fabric.

For years, Joseph Joachim has been a mere footnote in program notes as the violinist who influenced and worked with other composers like Brahms, Dvorak, Bruch, and the Schumanns. On this new recording, British violinist Daniel Hope puts this forgotten musical giant front and center.