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SMF: Daniel Hope
Breathing life, fun into SMF classical programming
Violinist Daniel Hope coordinates the classical music performances for the Savannah Music Festival

As associate artistic director of the Savannah Music Festival, Daniel Hope is busy enough. But considering he’s also one of the most active performers in the festival, that means he’s officially crazy-busy.

Not too busy, however, to have a chat with us about some unique programming coming up in the festival.

The idea for “Sex, Violins & Tales of the Baroque”:

Daniel Hope: This is based on the Air CD which I released last year, and tells the amazing story of how baroque music evolved and how it changed the world. With some of the finest musicians in the world joining me for this concert, I take the audience through a kind of guided tour of the music with many anecdotes relating to it. There is love, romance, fun, war, tragedy, and, of course, great music.

Some people think that baroque music is old fashioned, perhaps a little slow and stately. In fact it couldn’t be more different. Many of these composers, like Bach or Vivaldi, were outrageous characters, pushing the bounds of expressionism within their lives and their music. I try to show how radical and exciting this music is, and by explaining a bit about the background of the composers, talking about some of their extraordinary lives and the scrapes into which they got, I hope to give a fascinating and fun insight into the era.

The importance of the yearly ASO shows:

Daniel Hope: We are very fortunate to have the ASO as a regular visitor to the Festival. Not only is it a great orchestra, but I feel it is an important symbol with the state of Georgia. The orchestra has given us some spectacular concerts over the years. This year I am particularly looking forward to our performance of the Bruch Violin Concerto together.

On ‘The Four Seasons’:

Daniel Hope: Even today, Vivaldi’s music is so ahead of its time. The “Four Seasons” are like musical paintings. They tell us stories about nature, and in so doing, about ourselves. They have everything a violinist could dream for, great virtuosity, wonderful melodies, and the audience loves them. In this concert three different violinists will rotate to play them — that’s a first for me!

On unusual shows like ‘Death Cell Memoirs of an Extraterrestrial’:

Daniel Hope: I’ve known Marc Neikrug since I was a young boy, and I admire him as a great musician an composer. When I visited his festival in Santa Fe a couple of years ago, we got to talking about a commission idea, and I told him I wanted to program something a little different in Savannah. He has certainly come up with it. It’s a brilliant comedy, set to music, and we are so lucky to have the actor John Rubinstein to perform with us. Not only is he the son of the legendary pianist, Arthur Rubinstein, but he is also an actor whom I watched all the time in the lead role in the 1980s TV show Crazy like a Fox. Younger viewers may well have seen him as Mr. Hobson in Desperate Housewives.

Rehearsals for the Neikrug piece:

Daniel Hope: The rehearsals will all take place in Savannah, so until now everyone has been studying his part alone. It will be fascinating when we finally meet up and start to go through the piece together. As this is a world premiere, we will also be consulting Marc Neikrug about his feelings towards the piece, which he will also here in its entirety for the first time in Savannah. I love exchanging ideas with living composers... Bach and Beethoven aren’t that easy to get hold of on the phone.

More creative stuff like this in SMF’s future?

Daniel Hope: My very first performance in Savannah, back in 2004, was with a script I wrote called “An Audience with Beethoven”. It featured Mia Farrow and the Beaux Arts Trio and looked at the life of Beethoven through the eyes of his housekeeper, interspersed with music from his piano trios. I enjoy these cross–genre projects very much, and as we have one of the most diverse festivals in the world, I feel they have their place in Savannah.

Daniel Hope @ Savannah Music Festival

• Sex, Violins @ Tales of the Baroque: April 1, 5 & 7:30 p.m., Lucas Theatre

• Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 w/ Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, 3 p.m. April 3, Johnny Mercer Theatre (sold out)

• Vivaldi, Shostakovich and a work by Marc Neikrug, 7 p.m. April 5, Lucas Theatre