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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Daniel Hope leads a glamorous life. He plays a 239-year-old violin and carries an iPhone. He solos with the world's top orchestras and jams with musical friends like as Stewart Copeland of The Police. And for the past six years, Hope was the violinist in the legendary Beaux Arts Trio. His family left South Africa when Daniel was an infant. Dad had published poems critical of apartheid. The Hopes landed in England strapped for cash. As part of our series Musicians in Their Own Words, Daniel Hope remembers what happened when his mom went for a fateful job interview.

Mr. DANIEL HOPE (Classical Musician, Violinist): My mother decided to go all out, and she went to a very, very exclusive job agency. There were two jobs going. The first was secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the other was secretary to Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist.

(Soundbite of violin music)

Mr. HOPE: I was six months old when we arrived then. And for the next seven years, we spent almost everyday in his house, surrounded by these extraordinary musical figures like as Stephane Grappelli, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Ravi Shankar. These were just the guests that came to tea.

(Soundbite of violin music)

Mr. HOPE: When I was eight years old, I went to boarding school. I was supposed to be playing Bach, and all I wanted to do was play the Mendelssohn violin concerto. But all my teachers said that I was not good enough to do that, and they were right, but it didn't stop me. So I locked myself in the bathroom, and I put my music stand in the bathtub, took out the music, and I attempted the Mendelssohn concerto. And it must have sounded as if somebody was strangling several cats, but it was the most wonderful feeling of elation to me to have that music running through my veins.

(Soundbite of Mendelssohn concerto)

Mr. HOPE: But I was caught, and I was frog marched to the director of music who had informed my parents that something very serious had happened. So, of course, my parents thought I'd set fire to the place or been involved in a fight or something. And when they arrived, the then director of music sat down and informed my parents that I've been caught practicing the Mendelssohn concerto without permission, my parents were both so stunned that they actually took me out of the school. And the new violin teacher to whom I went was adamant that the first that I should then take up was the Mendelssohn concerto.

(Soundbite of Mendelssohn concerto)

Mr. HOPE: So, I'm going to open my violin case now. It's a rather sort of space-aged case. And when I actually unpack the violin, it's wrapped in all sorts of lucky charms. This is a violin, which was made in 1769 by the maker Gennaro Gagliano. And the violin itself belonged to Yehudi Menuhin. I was able to purchase this from him. I started buying it when I was 15. And about 15 years later, it finally belonged to me.

(Soundbite of violin music)

Mr. HOPE: I love this instrument because it is so flexible. One can go from the quietest, quietest pianissimo to huge explosions of forte. One day, I was just sitting at home looking out of the window, and I happened to catch my music stand, and on my music stand was "Tzigane" by Maurice Ravel. And it said, Rhapsody for Violin and Piano, or Piano Lutheal, and I said, what on earth is a piano lutheal? So I went back to my desk, and I Googled the word lutheal. This was an instrument that Ravel had created.

(Soundbite of piano music)

Mr. HOPE: I found out that there was a technician who had built a reconstruction of it. It looks like a cross between a typewriter and an organ, and it attaches itself to the strings of the piano and creates an amazing sound world. You have like a cimbalon sound, the gypsy instrument. You have a harp sound. You have a kind of fortepiano/cembalo sound. So I decided, we have to record this. Yehudi Menuhin gave me all of the notes to the sessions with Shankar. So I have all of his original manuscripts. When I first started to work with Gaurav Mazumdar, just an amazing sitar player who Ravi Shankar personally suggested, I didn't know how the instrument would really sound. But when we sat together on the floor, cross-legged, as is the fashion with Indian music, and those two instruments kind of intertwined, you realize how close those instruments really are.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HOPE: There are so many wonderful, wonderful musicians in the world, I cannot possibly make a distinction between the fact that they might play classical music or bluegrass or Irish traditional or Indian music. And if one is open enough to meet them halfway, that's when it gets really interesting.

(Soundbite of music)

SEABROOK: Daniel Hope talked with producer David Schulman. There's more of his interview and songs from his album, "East Meets West," at nprmusic.org.

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