Questions to Daniel Hope
Daniel, first of all let us thank you for coming to St. Petersburg with your wonderful project AIR. We heard only delightful feedback from those who visited you AIR performances… but my first question is the following:



You are not only a 'big' musician, you are one of few artists of the highest level who successfully popularizes violin and the classical music. Why and what for you contribute so much of your energy and talent into it? Maybe it's easier to focus only on those who is ready to perceive your violin art?
Daniel, first of all let us thank you for coming to St. Petersburg with your wonderful project AIR. We heard only delightful feedback from those who visited you AIR performances… but my first question is the following:

You are not only a 'big' musician, you are one of few artists of the highest level who successfully popularizes violin and the classical music. Why and what for you contribute so much of your energy and talent into it? Maybe it's easier to focus only on those who is ready to perceive your violin art?

DH: Music defines my day from the moment I wake to the moment I close my eyes. I've been performing around the world for over 25 years.. I also write about, present and current music on a variety of mediums, from books to television, from radio to social media. The violin gives me the chance to share the thoughts and emotions of the greatest composers who ever lived. And if I choose to play, write, broadcast, programme or present, it's always because I believe there is some form of great music out there which needs to be communicated, somehow. Music is communication, at least for me.

Classical music is somehow located in the secluded space. It has a steady circle of connoiseeurs. In fact, the we see only small amount of accidental public, less than in theatres for instance. Is this situation good or harmful for the culture in general and for the music? Is there potential for classical music to get closer to the mass listener? Or is it about elite?
DH: Classical music was never created to be elite. It was created to be shared. We are lucky to have amazing concerts halls around the world, and I do believe that these halls are the ideal place to experience music. The problem is that many people feel uncomfortable about approaching these halls if they do not already know them. They were built by visionaries who realized that providing entertainment for the masses at the highest possible level meant building buildings designed to give a perfect sonic and visual experience. We need to get everyone back into them. And we have to concentrate our efforts on growing new audiences whilst being careful not to alienate current lovers of this art form.
In your work you devote considerable attention to contemporary music and to the works of 17-18 centuries i.e. to the works which are rarely performed nowadays. At the same time you make stunning performances of more popular and well-known pieces (for example your magnificent performance of Shostakovich concerto in Moscow). What material is more interesting for you? Concerning popular pieces, is it harder for you to understand the composers' ideas due to the different interpretations of popular pieces made regularly by your colleagues?
DH: I do love to work with living composers because it allows you to have direct dialogue with the creators of music. This is unfortunately not possible with Bach and Beethoven. Last year I gave the Russian première of the Violin Concerto "1914" by Gabriel Prokofiev, the grandson of Sergey. We performed it in Moscow, but also in Tyumen and Chelyabinsk. After the performances, Maestro Vladimir Jurowski invited the audience to a Q&A with the two of us and Gabriel Prokofiev. It was fascinating to engage with the audience and to discuss this fantastic new piece, its meaning and its symbolism.

Analyzing your works we can suppose that your are trying to trace the history of violin art. Is that determined by your art concept or are there different objectives?

DH: I am fascinated by both music and history. And if I am able to bring the two together, then I am at my most happy. Most of all I try to tell a story, through the music I play, and by placing pieces in a context that show the connections between them.
It seems to me, that today you are probably the only british violinist of the highest level. What's your opinion, why is it so? What is the attitude to violin music in Britain?

DH: I disagree! There are many wonderful violinists from Britain! But I do worry that music education in Europe is rapidly facing extinsion from the school curriculum. Let me be very clear in stating that I am a great proponent of arts education, but in my opinion, the purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists. The real purpose is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society. Our world needs need creativity, ingenuity and innovation. And real innovation doesn't just come from technology, it comes through art and design. Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and defining the world. Adult life begins in a child's imagination, but in the last 50 years we've turned that imagination over to the marketplace. And the marketplace does only one thing -- it puts a price on everything. The role of culture, however, must go beyond economics and focus on value. There is only one social force that is strong enough to counterbalance the commercialization of cultural values - and that is our educational system. Yet here we sit, in the year 2015, and in our schools, kids are being pushed through without music, without visual arts, without dance or literary arts, training primarily one side of their brain - analytically and numerically - while the other half, which is about holistic and aesthetic learning, remains underdeveloped.

Considering your passion to the violin, could you become the founder of the new british violin school? What's your attitude to teaching?

DH: I was trained very much in the Russian school of violin playing. Felix Andrievsky, Itzhak Rashkovsky, Grigroy Zhislin and Zakhar Bron were my teachers. Of course these teachers themselves were heavily influenced by Yankelevich and David Oistrakh. For me there is no better school of playing. I myself do not teach, but I give masterclasses occasionally. I find it a fascinating and inspiring thing, but at the same time I do not yet feel completely ready to become a teacher. I am still learning too much…

AIR. What is the concept of it?

DH: From Amati's creation of the violin in the 16th century, the long journey which the violin has taken to the present day has been an extraordinary and tempestuous one. Arguably its greatest development was during the baroque era, as violinists and composers, in a sense liberated from the austerity and contrapuntal strictures of the Renaissance, went on a journey, both musically and geographically, avidly seeking more extravagant and original ways in which to express themselves on this fascinating new instrument.

Air sets out to trace one such baroque journey. It is the story of four unique composers, three of whom were virtuoso violinists, one a lutenist - Falconiero, Matteis and Geminiani from Italy, and Westhoff from Germany. They wandered throughout Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries in search of musical inspiration and cross-pollination, and their music and art of performance intrigued and delighted kings, contemporaries and audiences alike. Air blends the simplest and at times most primitive forms of dance music with the most sophisticated and revolutionary compositions of the day, culminating in a work by Bach - the great master, whose title is my inspiration for this collection, and whose music remains for me today more modern than that of anyone else.

Fantastic musicians are taking part in the AIR project. Are all of them coming to St. Petersburg? How important for the project is the situation when all of the musicians are like minded?

DH: I can really say that we are bringing a team of some of the greatest musicians in the world to St Petersburg. It is incredibly important for me that we share the same vision and energy.

There is an opinion that the public is St. Petersburg is very conservative. Daniel Hope at the same time is considered to be one of the most 'informal' violinists today. Aren't you afraid that the conservators would not understand you? Is it important for you to be understood?

DH: I have performed almost 15 times in Moscow, but never in St Petersburg! Since I was a little boy it was a dream of mine to visit St Petersburg and to perform at the Phiharmonia. The Russian audience is very special – whatever their taste may be, they always listen with incredible dedication and interest. We will bring them wonderful music, and we hope they will enjoy it.

We are sure your performance will be very successful. We are looking forward to see and listen to it. Thank you very much for the interview. See in in the Grand Hall os the St. Petersburg Philharmonia.

DH: Thank you. I cannot wait!
The interviewer: Kirill Manzhula.
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