British violinist Daniel Hope's first book, a German-language family memoir, will be published this month by Germany's prestigious Rowohlt publishing house. In Familienst‹cke (Family Notes), Hope explores his parents' roots on two continents, tying together the story of his mother's assimilated German-Jewish ancestors and his father's Irish-South African family while examining his own life and his path toward becoming a distinguished virtuoso.
This month marks another first for Hope — his first solo CD for Deutsche Grammophon. The disc (which goes on sale in the United States in January), features the world premiere recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in its original version, with Thomas Hengelbrock conducting the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The release also contains the first recording of the revised version of the Mendelssohn's Octet as well as three songs by the composer arranged by Hope for violin and piano.
Hope will hit the road to open the 2007-08 season. His appearances include recitals in London's Cadogan Hall in October, plus performances of Britten's Violin Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in November and with the Munich Philharmonic in December. In a special concert in Zurich on November 30, Hope celebrates the 60th birthday of his violin teacher, Zakhar Bron; he is scheduled to perform with another Bron student, Maxim Vengerov, for the first time.
In the spring, Hope, a member of the Beaux Arts Trio since 2002, joins his colleagues for the venerable ensemble's farewell tour of Europe and North America.
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While Daniel Hope is writing books, violinist Midori is doing her best to get children to read books. She's the latest celebrity to participate in the "What Book Got You Hooked?" campaign sponsored by First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children from low-income families read and own their first new books. First Book has provided more than 50 million books to children so far. Midori's participation means 500 books will be donated in her name.
In an essay on the organization's web site, Midori recalls reading her first books in Japanese, saying she was drawn to both fiction and non-fiction, including biographies of Albert Schweitzer and Marie Antoinette and White Fang, Pinocchio, Grimm's Fairy Tales and Heidi. She says she especially loved reading books that were handed down through her family; they had inscriptions bearing the names of all the relatives who had owned them. The collection still resides in her grandmother's house.
First Book is the latest of numerous charitable activities undertaken by Midori. The violinist has several foundations and regularly makes appearances at benefits and before schoolchildren.
This month Midori performs the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto to open the 2007-08 seasons of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the Waco Symphony and the San Antonio Symphony.
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Bryn Terfel's highly publicized withdrawal from this fall's Covent Garden Ring has paved the way for the on-stage reunion of two old friends — John Tomlinson, who is taking over the role of Wotan from Terfel, and mezzo-soprano Rosalind Plowright, Tomlinson's college classmate, who sings Fricka.
Plowright, in an interview with Musicalcriticism.com, says she has long been looking forward to working with her old friend. The two made a recording of CosÐ fan tutte when both were rough-voiced novices in their early 20s, did a few joint concerts, and appeared in Mary Stuart (Donizetti's Maria Stuarda) at English National Opera in 1982, but this is their first appearance on stage together in big roles. "I'm thrilled to bits!" Plowright says. "Even when he was doing just one [Ring] cycle I was thrilled, and now that he's doing them all I'm even more thrilled."
Performances of three complete cycles of Wagner's four-opera epic begin in October. Terfel, citing family reasons, pulled out of what was supposed to be his first complete Ring; he was to appear in two of the three cycles, Tomlinson was to sing the other.
Plowright, who began her career as a soprano, says she thinks Fricka, with its high tessitura, is likely to be less challenging for her than for other mezzos. She is also likely to bring her fine acting chops to the role. Plowright has worked numerous times as a television and film actress; her credits include a prominent role in the BBC drama The House of Elliott.
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Baritone Thomas Hampson joins the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music this fall in the newly created position of Visiting Distinguished Artist for Vocal Studies and Distance Learning. One of his first activities with the school puts the "distance learning" portion of his title into action — Hampson will conduct a master class simultaneously at the Manhattan School and Philadelphia's Curtis Institute via Internet2 in October. A day later, Hampson — known for his interest in American music — sings Barber's Dover Beach in a recital at the Manhattan School.
After a mid-September recital in Paris, Hampson spends much of the fall in the U.S. He closes September with four performances of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas. The performances will be recorded for release as part of the orchestra's ongoing Mahler series. Hampson returns to the Bay Area for seven November and December appearances at the San Francisco Opera in the title role of Verdi's Macbeth.
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Conductor and scholar Leon Botstein marks his 15th season as music director of the American Symphony Orchestra in 2007-08 ... Mezzo Susan Graham sings Ravel on two continents this season. She performs Sh_h_razade in a gala season-opening concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under James Levine in October and later repeats the work at another gala, this time with the Orchestre de Paris and Christoph Eschenbach ... Paul Jacobs, the 30-year-old virtuoso organist known for marathon performances, plans to play Olivier Messiaen's monumental 1984 work Livre du Saint Sacrament at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin near Manhattan's Times Square. The free performance takes place October 9.