Can Classical Music Take a Joke? A Violinist Is Shredded

The violinist Daniel Hope in Berlin on Jan. 9.

Overdubbing internet videos for laughs is a venerable pastime, from the absurdities put into the mouths of politicians by the Bad Lip Reading team to the “shred” videos of the last decade, which make it seem as though guitar heroes, pop bands and some of classical music’s leading lights produce outrageous, ear-grating cacophonies from their instruments.

Here, for instance, is the great virtuoso Itzhak Perlman decidedly not playing a section of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto screechily out of tune in a video called “Itzhak Perlman Shreds Mendelssohn Violin Concerto”:

Itzhak Perlman Shreds Mendelssohn Violin ConcertoCredit...CreditVideo by fatpjerrot

Now the violin world is being transfixed by a new shred that few people have seen — but which is raising questions about satire, free speech, good taste and whether classical music can take a joke. The shred, of the violinist Daniel Hope, was pulled off the internet after Mr. Hope, who was offended by it, had his lawyers send a cease-and-desist letter. One of its creators, a Berlin-based concert programmer, dramaturge and journalist named Arno Lücker, was then told that a series he has long presented at the prestigious Berlin Konzerthaus, where Mr. Hope frequently plays and programs a series of his own, would not be renewed.

The episode prompted an outcry. The music publication Van Magazine, where Mr. Lücker is a contributor, called Mr. Hope “thin-skinned” in an article called “Who’s Afraid of Daniel Hope?” The composer Moritz Eggert, who posted the video on his site, Neue Musikzeitung, published an open letter to Mr. Hope suggesting that the lengths that he had taken to quash the video had been an overreaction, according to a translation that was published by Forbes.

Mr. Hope said in a telephone interview from Seville, Spain, where he is on tour, that he had not been offended that the video made his playing sound terrible, but that it had made it seem as if he were spewing “utterly foul, pornographic language” in his introduction to the piece. He said that he had first clicked on the YouTube link on the day after Christmas, in front of his 4-year-old son.

“That to me is more about internet bullying than freedom of expression,” said Mr. Hope, who said he had been offended to be cast as an enemy of free speech, given that his father, Christopher Hope, had been forced to leave South Africa because of his anti-apartheid writings, which he said were banned for years.

Mr. Hope said that he was satisfied that the video had been taken down, and that he had asked his lawyers to stop further legal proceedings. He acknowledged sending the video to the head of the Konzerthaus, but said that he had not asked them to take Mr. Lücker’s work away next season. (A spokesman for the Konzerthaus did not respond to an email seeking comment.)

A lawyer for Mr. Lücker, Roman Ronneburger, said in an email that the video had been intended as “a satirical and funny joke,” aimed not only at Mr. Hope but at the musician he was playing with in the video, Ludovico Einaudi, a pianist and composer. He said that Mr. Lücker had been informed that the program he has presented at the Konzerthaus since 2011 would not be renewed as a result of the video.

The shred is no longer available. Van, which viewed it, described it as “genuinely funny, if you can stomach the average American stand-up comedy routine” and noted that the words of Mr. Hope’s concert introduction had been substituted with “precisely timed poop jokes and masturbation gags.”

In the absence of the Hope shred, here are some older, more strictly musical shreds:

This one notes that it is “definitely NOT the life-affirming and glorious sound of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir”:

And here the violinist Pinchas Zukerman extols the marvels of a Stradivarius, before playing it with perhaps predictable results:

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