Daniel Hope, Spheres

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 03.19.13 in Reviews

Spheres - Einaudi, Glass, Nyman, Pärt, Richter

Daniel Hope

Never mind the “music of the spheres” album concept: These 18 melodic, gently pulsing tracks could find a receptive audience in the easy-listening (excuse me, “chillout”) market. But that doesn’t mean classical buffs should pass it up; there’s no rule against substantial music sounding beautiful, and everything here is beautiful while exhibiting a fair amount of variety and even imagination. The opening track, Baroque composer Johann Paul von Westhoff’s “Imitazione delle campane” (No. 3 of his solo violin sonatas, a short one-movement work arranged for violin and string orchestra by Christian Badzura), is a little surprising for how its restlessness sounds quintessentially modern. Most of the pieces are by living composers (the rest are arranged by modern composers), with many premieres, including Gabriel Prokofiev’s title track, hewing gently towards dissonance.

There’s no rule against substantial music sounding beautiful

The performances are mostly for violin and piano; pianist Jacques Ammon never has anything technically challenging to play, so what matters is tone and dynamic control, and his playing is beautiful in those regards. But the textures and forces expand to include violin, string orchestra and chorus (the German Chamber Orchestra of Berlin and members of the Berlin Radio Choir are conducted by Simon Halsey), plus various combinations of violin, strings, and additional featured instruments, which also keeps things from blurring together. Hope is featured on every track, and his sound is wonderfully lustrous.