Berlin.

America has fascinated Daniel Hope ever since he was allowed to visit his beloved “Aunt Leni” there as a little boy.

“This ‘American way of life’ fascinated me, especially as a child – everything was big, generous, oversized,” says the violin virtuoso, born in 1973 in Durban (South Africa), in an interview with the German Press Agency. . .

A “true obsession” of artist Hope for America has come over the years: “I always find that breadth and openness in the sound of American music,” he says. Yehudi Menuhin’s student euphoria and multiple Echo Classic award winner has now produced an album simply titled “America”, with which he dissolves the boundaries between classical, jazz, gospel and blues. The book is dedicated to the great-aunt who was able to escape from Nazi Germany to the United States at the last moment in the 1930s.

In search of a typical sound

The original question for the German-Irish classical music star was: what makes music sound truly American? If you are looking for a sound typical of this immense country, don’t miss “Summertime” by George Gershwin, nor the musical hit “Maria” by Leonard Bernstein. But in between, Hope places a very meager and therefore particularly moving version of Sam Cooke’s civil rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” for violin, piano and voice – with Brazilian pianist Sylvia Thereza and remarkable soul singer Berliner Joy Denalane.

“You can’t make a record about American music, which is also called ‘America’, if you don’t take a serious look at one of the most important pillars – that of African Americans,” Hope says. Consequently, the 48-year-old now combines Gershwin, Bernstein and Aaron Copland as white icons of American classical music with pieces by black composer Florence Price and jazz pioneer Duke Ellington.

Without folk kitsch

An “American Song Suite” with songs by Kurt Weill, who fled to the United States to escape the Nazis, completes the album. At the end, the respectable “America The Beautiful” by Samuel Ward sounds – Hope’s magnificent Guarneri violin from 1742 and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra fortunately avoid any folk kitsch here.

Hope has proven himself unafraid of a variety of tasks and challenges for 30 years as a cross-border musician, festival manager, talent promoter, author, TV and radio host. For “America”, he teamed up for the first time in the studio with the famous jazz trio of his longtime friend Marcus Roberts – and thus acquired new facets even of Gershwin’s songs which had already been recorded dozens of times.

The album would have been “unthinkable” without pianist sensation Roberts, Hope notes gratefully. “We gave each other plenty of time and space to find our own voice within our jazz and classical music collaboration. Marcus encouraged me to improvise even more freely and really let go. It opened up completely new sonic spheres for me.” That’s why he’s “of course not a jazz musician, but my antennae are way out there. I’m open to that other side”.

Daniel Hope, who received the Federal Cross of Merit in 2017 for his services to memory culture in Germany, has a long-standing interest in the intensive study of African-American music. On “America”, he really lives this weak point and also cites personal and political reasons for it. “My early childhood was very marked by racial segregation, by apartheid.” With “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “Come Sunday”, Hope bows to soul and gospel singers Sam Cooke and Mahalia Jackson, who were affected by American racism in the 50s and 60s – “for me , one of the most amazing voices of this era”. .

tour schedules

The hardworking violinist has released five albums since 2020 – they cover a huge range from “Belle Epoque” music and Christmas carols to duet works by avant-garde artist Alfred Schnittke and the classical hybrid- American jazz. “It’s an overdose of curiosity,” Hope laughs. “The last two years of the pandemic have actually been very productive for me, at least as far as the studio is concerned. I was able to tackle subjects that are musically exciting and that interest me historically.”

“American music is as diverse and dynamic as its people,” Daniel Hope discovered in his most recent artistic research. The studio recordings with the Swiss orchestra and the various guests impressively reflect this enthusiasm. If the situation in Corona allows it, Hope now also wants to present the new repertoire on tour. Because as beautiful as his “Hope@Home” living room concerts have been broadcast live during the pandemic – “America” ​​is truly made for the big stage. (dpa)