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The Romantic Violinist: A Celebration of Joseph Joachim

The violinist Daniel Hope explores the world of his 19th-century predecessor Joseph Joachim.

Daniel Hope (violin, viola), Sakari Oramo (cond), Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
(Deutsche Grammophon)

While we know composers of the past through their written works, it is hard to conjure up the worlds of great performers such as Niccolò Paganini or Ignaz Moscheles simply because there is nothing to prove their brilliance other than the anecdote and adulation of their contemporaries.

In Joseph Joachim’s case, we do have a few crackling recordings from the turn of the 20th century, by which time he was elderly and probably past his best. Yet this was a violinist who not only composed his own works but was also a huge influence on some of the greatest composers of the mid- and late-19th century, including Clara and Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Max Bruch.

Indeed, such an important figure was he that he was given free reign to amend and adapt the Bruch violin concerto that opens the album, No. 1 in G minor, to the extent that Bruch himself feared that listeners would believe the piece to have been composed by Joachim.

The young South African/British violinist Daniel Hope, fascinated by Joachim’s immense presence in the history of German Romanticism, has tried to bring together those works that reflect his influence the most – the Bruch, two Hungarian Dances by Brahms that Joachim regularly performed with the composer himself, and a Schubert Lied that had been performed by Joachim’s wife, the mezzo-soprano Amalie Schneeweiss (performed here by Anne Sofie von Otter).

Hope even taught himself the viola especially to play Brahms’s Geistliches Wiegenlied, which had been reworked from a lullaby to celebrate the birth of Joachim’s first child. The addition of a Romanza and a Notturne written by Joachim himself reveal the violinist as a tender, sensitive composer. Luckily, Hope’s performances are just as tender, with none of the histrionics that sometimes accompany the Romantic canon, making this a genuinely interesting collection.

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