Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C; Elgar: Serenade for Strings in E minor; Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Zurich Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Hope (violin)
DG 483 9845 61:03 mins
Such is the intensity of Tchaikovsky’s musical inspiration that it feels in some performances as though the title ‘serenade’ has gone completely by the board. Yet if one over-lightens the textures and trims down the personnel in order to enhance the music’s moments of tender intimacy, the outer movements can seem decidedly underwhelming. Daniel Hope gets it just about right with tempos that keep the music flowing naturally without ever seeming rushed, while creating the impression of a string octet in overdrive rather than a slimmed-down symphonic ensemble. Some may miss the high-adrenalin count and espressivo clout of, say, Herbert von Karajan’s early 1980s digital Berlin remake (also DG), yet Hope is more successful at capturing the music’s Italianate sparkle and charm, beguiling the senses with a gentle bonhomie and warmth without an attendant sense of ‘maestro at work’.
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Even more persuasive is a performance of Elgar’s Serenade that captures its quintessential Englishness, outdoor freshness and spontaneity with a captivating inner glow. Hope keeps everything perfectly in scale, demonstrating an unusual sensitivity at lower dynamic levels, and ensures the music retains its masterpiece-in-miniature profile rather than creating a sense of the Introduction and Allegro in embryo.
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To finish, a reading of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik that is all the more effective for embracing cantabile eloquence and resisting the pressures of historically informed practice. By taking the opening Allegro’s second-half-repeat and not rushing the finale off its feet, Hope also succeeds in imbuing this underrated score with a genial gravitas that it sadly often lacks.
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