Saturday, October 27, 2007

A consummate communicator!

In whatever he does. This is Daniel Hope, violinist, story teller extraordinaire. He's just brought out a CD (Mendelssohn violin concerto, original version - not universally appreciated, BBC Radio 3 did not much like it, someone else did), a book 'Familienstuecke' ('family pieces'; only, it seems, in German), and the CD of someone reading the book. This was taken as the cause for an author's evening at Dussmann in Friedrichstrasse, Berlin (the biggest classical CD shop in Berlin). It was packed!

Hope played some salon pieces with his piano partner Sebastian Knauer. Both are very good looking young gentlemen (in their best years). Hope ooooozes charisma. The pieces, which were not the highest brow music, in fact they were rather formulaic, were beautifully played in a salon sort of way, very sweetly and fireworkish. Hope would have fitted in well with Heifetz, Kreisler and their ilk.

Then he read, in German (he grew up in England and would have no business speaking German so well, were it not for his German wife, and some family history), excerpts from his book; slighly more lengthily than absolutely required, but wow, is he a good reader! With a brilliant sense of timing and great powers of imitation - he should think of reading, or acting, as an emergency career!

I left after that, having already finished reading the book and having to rush to the opera. It was interesting that all his readings were little anecdotes of what happened in his life, when in fact the meat in the book is what happened to his family in Germany. So he is an absolute diplomat, too.

The book is very interesting, but it suffers from a lack of material. There is a very complicated story about what happened to his partly Jewish family in Germany, and how they got to emigrate, but this is also padded out with a bit of autobiography. I know that people younger than 33 have written autobiographies, but there is really no great need for this.

The story of his family is the usual story of Jews in Germany in the 1930s, with harassment, and expropriations, though it does not seem that anyone of the closer family has died in the camps; most managed to get out. Clearly this is fairly traumatic stuff, especially given that people in his family have not talked much about this since then, and he has had to find out much from research. (I have come also across this in a book about the Armenian genocide....).

This part of the book is slightly confusing because there are so many people, many great-great grandparents, and the chapters not running particularly chronologically - occasionally the book jumps backwards and forwards, or pauses somewhere, and you try to follow the sequence of events. Also there are many assumptions, where Hope thinks that people might have reacted to particular events in this way, rather than that way - the book is a bit thin on hard facts in this regard. This is partly due to the fact that he only started this when many of the participants were dead, and perhaps also because he just lacked the time to research more deeply.

The other part of the book (the two intermingle) is full of anecdotes about his own life, as well as about other people. The word 'padding' comes to mind a little. It is extremely amusing, though!

The writing style (is it written by a ghost writer whose name is in the book) is slightly for the coffee table market; some stuff, such as the age and 'make' of his fiddle, does not really need to be mentioned - it seems a bit like showing off. It's quite an interesting book and a very pleasant (well, mostly, given the events described in it), but probably not a deep analysis of anything.

What it does show, though, is what an absolute powerhouse of activity both his mum is, and he is! That's really quite awesome!