Daniel Hope and Friends

By Scott MacClelland

IF YOU LIKE THE BAROQUE-STYLE CHACONNE—variations played above an obstinately repeating bass line—then you got a whole meal of it, from soup to nuts, during the “Daniel Hope and Friends” concert Sunday afternoon in Carmel. At least 10 of the 14 pieces on Hope’s program were slaves to the chacony, as it known in English. (Some say the dance-based form originated in the Americas and was then formalized in 16th century Spain, where it is called chacona.)

This lopsided disproportion among Baroque forms of Hope’s current tour titled “Air—A Baroque Journey” begged a huge question. Where were the Italian sonata and concertos? Where were the French fugue and suite? Where, indeed, the German chorale?

An internationally acclaimed violinist, Hope, who’s program here—see a video of what you missed in our October 30 Weekly Magazine—was slick, well-rehearsed and, frankly, glib. Yet it was also fun, an element often missing from area classical concerts, like those of the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival and some dour artists at the Carmel Bach Festival. In the Baroque, as Hope explained, musicians were roped into whatever their patrons wanted in the moment. Notwithstanding the great instrumental works and composers of that era, they still served a players’ art, rooted in dance.

Monkish Naoki Kitaya’s harpsichord was tuned to A-442 cycles per second, which is not only much higher than Baroque tuning but well into the ‘brilliant’ range of the Boston Symphony. That tuning set the tone for Hope, violinist Simos Papanas, cellist Nicola Mosca, lutenist and baroque guitarist Emanuele Forni, and percussionist (including castanets and Jew’s harp) Michael Metzler, who also played tambourine and guitar.  

Those in the holiest precincts of the Carmel Bach and Santa Cruz Baroque festivals must congenitally resent such interlopers. Yet they—the interlopers—actually have no dog in the fight. They are here to entertain, superficially and/or to plumb the depths.  

Depths were not especially plumbed here, with favor going to the facile. Hope’s prepared commentary provided the thread that stitched together the sampler of music chosen to favor the evolution of the violin, starting with a ricercata (a precursor to the fugue) by 16th century Spaniard Diego Ortiz for which the musicians followed drummer Metzler onto the Sunset Center stage. In turn, this was followed by the first chaconne, a sarabande by Handel made famous by its use in the Stanley Kubrick film Barry Lyndon. Short bits by Falconieri—Hope’s remarks and program notes inexplicably alternated between that spelling and Falconiero—Johann Paul von Westhoff, Nicola Matteis and Marco Uccellini. Not all of the musicians participated in every piece, but they did come together with extremely self-indulgent virtuosity for Vivaldi’s  “La Follia” trio sonata.

Other pieces included a 16th century-style version of Greensleeves, and a sparkling survey of Jean-Marie Leclair’s Le tambourin, complete with fanciful glissandos and animal grunts. The last bit on the printed program, a ciaconna by Falconieri, wound out the parts one by one, leaving only two players on stage—imitating, in hindsight, Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony.

Two encores rewarded the cheering audience: the first movement from Vivaldi’s popular Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor and the Air for strings from the orchestral Suite in D by JS Bach.