EXCLUSIVE: Violinist Daniel Hope Talks ‘Vivaldi Recomposed,’ Max Richter’s Re-Imagining of ‘The Four Seasons’ on DG/Universal

By Louise Burton on Apr 08, 2014 08:42 PM EDT

Some pieces of music are so familiar that it is almost impossible to hear them afresh.

Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons almost certainly falls into that category. The "Spring" movement has been used extensively in commercials and as background music, and the entire score is programmed frequently in concert halls around the world.

Classicalite recently wrote about Vivaldi Recomposed, Max Richter's fresh reimagining of Vivaldi's classic score for violin, chamber orchestra and moog synthesizer. A new edition of this work will be released by Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Classics on April 29.

I recently spoke with British violinist Daniel Hope, who is the violin soloist of Vivaldi Recomposed.

Hope told me that he has played the original Four Seasons literally hundreds of times. "I've played it since I was 8 years old, to the point where it's written down in my DNA," he said.

I asked him whether he ever gets tired of playing the piece. "No, never," he said. "It's a masterpiece."

In fact, his regard for The Four Seasons is so high that when Richter approached him about playing the violin part for Vivaldi Recomposed, Hope said to him, "what's wrong with the original?"

To the concert violinist, the idea of rewriting Vivaldi "was like taking somebody you've loved all your life--and repackaging them."

But Richter's perspective was somewhat different.

"Richter said to me, 'I'm bombarded with [The Four Seasons] everywhere I go. It's played so often that it's become wallpaper. My brain shuts it out. And so I've decided to recompose it,'" Hope recalled.

Richter wanted to do more than simply re-mix existing recordings of the work.

He has said "I wanted to open up the score on a note-by-note level, and working with an existing recording was like digging a mineshaft through an incredibly rich seam, discovering diamonds and not being able to pull them out. That became frustrating. I wanted to get inside the score at the level of the notes and in essence re-write it, re-composing it in a literal way."

Hope admits that he was skeptical at first about Richter's attempts to breathe some fresh air into the well-known piece. But once Richter showed him portions of the rewritten version, Hope's initial light skepticism faded away.

Hope called the music "an amazing transformation. It was something I didn't want to lose out on."

And once Hope and the chamber orchestra had successfully navigated the newly-written score, he said "It was pure delight. We just loved the piece. Everyone in the orchestra lit up after we played it. We knew this was something that was very special and would have a life, and it has done that."

In fact, their original recording of Vivaldi Recomposed was named iTunes' Best 2012 Contemporary Classical Album for the U.S.

The new edition of the work, available on April 29, will also include an exclusive performance film featuring Richter and Hope, shot in East Berlin in late 2013.

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TagsDaniel Hope, Max Richter, Vivaldi Recomposed, Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Antonio Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

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