COMPOSERS: Pärt & Schnittke,Penderecki,Shostakovich
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Daniel Hope
PERFORMER: Daniel Hope (violin), Simon Mulligan (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5631
The Biblical phrase ‘nought for your comfort’ leaps to mind. In terms of mood, the young violinist Daniel Hope’s debut disc as a chamber musician begins darkly and grows steadily darker. There are momentary flickers of light in Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata, even if the ending snuffs them out for good; but Schnittke’s Third Sonata and Stille Nacht (Silent Night) are pure abysmal gloom. If it weren’t for Hope’s superb playing, it would be just about unbearable, but he is so persuasive that one has to follow him through this music. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more compelling account of the Shostakovich Sonata (not that there’s been much competition) – not even from the work’s dedicatee, David Oistrakh. There’s grandeur here, intensity and bleak pathos, but most impressive of all is his grasp of the work as a whole – as one of Shostakovich’s grimmest later internal journeys.
There’s no consolation in Penderecki’s obsessive, brooding Cadenza, nor even in Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror within Mirror), where Hope’s vibrato-less playing creates precisely the ‘cold’ sound the composer asks for. After this, there’s more pushing against the pain barrier in Schnittke’s Third Sonata, and finally the utterly desolate ‘broken music box’ of Stille Nacht. Schnittke called the latter a ‘light-hearted Christmas present’; here it sounds more like something one might lay on Stalin’s grave. First-class recordings – and let’s not forget the pianist, Simon Mulligan, a more than adequate partner in Shostakovich, Pärt and the Schnittke Sonata. Stephen Johnson