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Review: Daniel Hope and L’Arte del Mondo at Birmingham Town Hall

Daniel Hope bobs, he bounces, he bends almost double - all the while spinning a rich, glittering stream of notes.

Daniel Hope plays the violin in a business suit and tie. But there’s nothing strait-laced about his platform manner. He bobs, he bounces, he bends almost double – turning round to face the members of the L’Arte del Mondo orchestra, nodding, and all the while spinning a rich, glittering stream of notes. He reminded me of someone and when, as an encore, he launched into a funkily re-composed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons it clicked: Nigel Kennedy. Since both were once protégés of Yehudi Menuhin, maybe that’s not entirely coincidental.

In fact, the whole programme was chosen as a 100th birthday tribute to the late Lord Menuhin. L’Arte del Mondo are a spirited bunch who play standing up and make a beefy, buoyant sound despite their sparing use of vibrato. No ‘historically informed’ self-denial here, despite the token harpsichord. Two of Mozart’s early Salzburg divertimentos, directed by L’Arte del Mondo’s leader Werner Ehrhardt, sang and danced as boisterously as if they’d been played by a full symphonic string section rather than just 14 players.

Hope upped the ante further: though with all his brilliance and physicality, he couldn’t help but upstage his colleague Andrea Keller in Vivaldi’s A minor double concerto – or quite convince you that the 13-year old Mendelssohn’s D minor violin concerto (rediscovered by Menuhin) is much more than a youthful finger exercise. Arvo Pärt’s Darf Ich… and Bechara El-Khoury’s shimmering, rhapsodic Unfinished Journey served as further homages to Menuhin.

But best of all was a wonderfully open and lilting account of Bach’s Double Concerto, in which Hope, Keller and the band gave the impression that they were playing for each other’s pleasure and ours, and enthusiastically following where the music led them. There’s no greater compliment to Menuhin than that.

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