New Classical Tracks: Chad Hoopes goes with the flow

by Julie Amacher
May 28, 2014

Listen New Classical Tracks: Chad Hoopes, Mendelssohn and Adams
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Mendelssohn, Adams: Violin Concertos / Jarvi, Hoopes, Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra (© 2014 Naive Records.)

Chad Hoopes - Mendelssohn & Adams Violin Concertos (Naïve Records)

"I've always wanted to put Mendelssohn on my first album with orchestra because it's a piece that I have played since I was so young," says violinist Chad Hoopes. "It was one I loved so much and one I felt I could contribute to the rich legacy that this piece already has to offer."

Violinist Chad Hoopes is 19 years old. He started playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto No. 2 in E minor 10 years ago, and he's just recorded it with Kristjan Jarvi and the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra. Chad was born in Naples, Fla., and he grew up in Minnesota where he was inspired early on by the Minnesota Orchestra. After taking part in the Cleveland Institute of Music's Young Artist Program, he now studies in Kronberg, Germany.

When it comes to making music, Chad's primary goal is to develop his own unique character. That's one reason he paired the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with one by John Adams. Adams wrote his concerto for Jorja Fleezanis, the former concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, who premiered this work the year Chad was born. "I think people might expect seeing a Mendelssohn and a Tchaikovsky concerto or a Mendelssohn and a Bruch violin concerto on the same album, but I didn't want to put out another one of those recordings," Chad explains. "It's great, but for me it was not so exciting and so I thought to myself maybe something American because I'm American and I felt that was important. And also one of the most important things was to play something from a living composer. To keep music alive and to keep the next generation involved with music, playing music from a living composer is important. So I listened to a few things and listened to the Adams and didn't fall in love with it at first but thought, 'You know, this is something that could be really cool.'

"I ordered the score and spent maybe a month looking at it and playing some things and I called my manager and said, 'Oh, I don't think it's possible, I don't have a strong connection with the piece, it's incredibly difficult'; I didn't have hope for it. And my manager said, 'Well, you know what? You've taken the time already. Why don't you spend one or two more months with the piece, see if anything changes and if not, you'll have time [to find something else].' And so I spent those next couple of months looking at this piece and working on it. And I have to say, those two months were critical because I fell in love with the piece and I had this connection with it and it worked."

Chad really got into the groove of the second movement of the Adams concerto. It's a chaconne titled, "Body Through which the Dream Flows."

"When I was playing it at the time, I had this obsession with Michael Jackson, and so I'd watch YouTube videos and watch how he danced and how he moved and how it just flowed out of his body," Chad explains, "and the Adams concerto for me is similar. The more you play it and work with it, it just kind of flows and it just kind of happens. And that's how it was with the orchestra as well."

One thing the Adams and Mendelssohn concertos have in common, according to Chad, is their sense of youthful energy. "I think that the Mendelssohn and Adams both have characteristics of a singing quality," he says. "And youthfulness — Adams is a young piece, it's new, relatively new, compared to the Mendelssohn. And both of them have this passion and this flair that really stand out in the repertoire. And through the Adams you can prove so much, because it's so technically difficult and also it's like a puzzle. You have to put the puzzle together and try to figure out what he wanted and in your own way express those things — and the same with Mendelssohn. These composers wrote this music and they had a definite idea of how they wanted it to be played. But as an artist, you do things the way you think is right as well, and add to what is already given on the page. And I was able to do that on both of those works."