Celebrated for his musical versatility as well as his dedication to humanitarian causes, Daniel Hope has been associate artistic director of the Savannah Music Festival since 2004, with his contract recently extended through the 2018 season.
The British violinist lives with his family in Berlin and has toured the world as a virtuoso soloist for more than 25 years. Raised in London, he studied the violin with Zakhar Bron and became the youngest member of the Beaux Arts Trio during its final six seasons.
Some of his accolades include the 2015 European Cultural Prize for Music and his recordings have won him the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, the Diapason d'Or of the Year, the Edison Classical Award, the Prix Caecilia, six ECHO-Klassik Awards and numerous Grammy nominations. He also appears as soloist with the world's major orchestras, and he has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2007. In the 2016 season, Hope became music director of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, succeeding Sir Roger Norrington.
While known for his music, Hope is also an accomplished author and has penned four best-selling books published in Germany and contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal. He has also written scripts for collaborative performances with actors Klaus Maria Brandauer and Mia Farrow.
Do Savannah caught up with this busy virtuoso as he prepares for the 2017 Savannah Music Festival to discuss Savannah, the mission of the SMF and why funding for the arts is so important to our youth.
Do: Can you tell us a little about what the title associate artistic director entails and what has drawn you to continue this position for so many years?
Daniel Hope: The title gives me complete freedom to plan the chamber music and most of the classical music which takes place at SMF. In close discussions with [executive and artistic director] Rob Gibson and his amazing team, I look forward to bringing the finest classical musicians in the world to Savannah and to providing the audiences with unique ways to experience classical music.
Do: How do you personally approach the mission of the Savannah Music Festival and what do you want to bring to Savannah audiences?
DH: Over the last 14 years, I have developed a core of key musicians who delight the audiences year after year. To them, I always add new friends and colleagues. My goal from the start was also to combine American and European musicians and for the two continents to work together musically. I want to ensure top quality classical music presented in fresh and exciting forms.
Do: When you are curating a show that you also perform in, do you have an idea of how you want to approach the concert ahead of time or is this a collaborative effort that comes together through practice and conversations?
DH: I would say it is a combination of both. I believe very strongly in concept programming, but a concept on paper is very different to a live performance. Chamber music is all about the collaborative effort, and sharing the emotions this incredible music brings us.
Do: What do you think makes the Savannah Music Festival unique?
DH: I am lucky to perform every year at most of the world's greatest festivals. Savannah combines the quality, the diversity and the sheer love of music and musicians in such a concentrated and inspirational form - I know of no other festival quite like it. Plus, we have the best audience. Quite simply, SMF is a jewel.
Do: Savannah Music Festival relies on funding to continue its programming. When someone asks why they should fund the arts in our community, what do you tell them?
DH: I tell them that investing and supporting the arts is crucial to making all our lives better in a variety of ways. It is also about supporting and giving back to the community.
If we are looking purely at figures, almost half of the attendees at SMF come from more than 200 miles away, staying an average of 4.5 days and spending an average of $468 per day on food, lodging and tickets. In real terms this means that the city of Savannah gets more than a 6-to-1 return on their investment since the festival generates more than $1.1 million in tax revenues alone each year, we are filling 11,000 hotel beds, restaurants and the like.
But for me - much more important than figures - while I'm a great proponent of arts education, both Rob Gibson and I believe the purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists, but to create complete human beings.
We need creativity, ingenuity and innovation. And real innovation doesn't just come from technology, it comes through art and design. Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and defining the world. Adult life begins in a child's imagination, but it seems as if we've turned much of that imagination over to the marketplace. And the marketplace does only one thing; it puts a price on everything.
The role of culture, however, must go beyond economics and focus on value. There is only one social force that is strong enough to counterbalance the commercialization of cultural values - and it's our educational system. Yet in our schools, kids are being pushed through without music, without visual arts, without dance or literary arts, training primarily one side of their brain - analytically and numerically - while the other half, which is about holistic and aesthetic learning, remains underdeveloped. We can change that.
Do: What do you want audiences to walk away with after this year's festival and what do you hope for the future of SMF?
DH: I want them to experience the finest music and musicians in spectacular settings. One-time-only productions and musical storytelling at the highest, world-class level. SMF has already grown beyond all our expectations, but as we all know, the only way is up!
Beethoven and Beyond: Part 1
6 p.m. March 23; Trinity United Methodist Church; $52
Brahms vs. Tchaikovsky
6 p.m. March 24; Lucas Theatre for the Arts; $52-$65
EbÃ¨ne Quartet with Daniel Hope & Simon-Crawford Phillips
6 p.m. March 26; Trinity United Methodist Church; $57
Beethoven and Beyond: Part II
6 p.m. March 27; Trinity United Methodist Church; $52
Daniel Hope & Friends featuring Edgar Meyer and the Dover Quartet
6 p.m. April 2; Temple Mickve Israel (sold out)
All DvoÅ™Ã¡k: Daniel Hope & Friends featuring David Finckel, Wu Han and the Dover Quartet
6 p.m. April 4; Trinity United Methodist Church; $57