just flew in from Kansas City,” says Joshua Bell, speaking
from his New York City home, “and I’ll be here for three
days before I fly out to play three concerts this weekend.”
One of them is here, on Saturday, when the renowned violinist
performs two works with the Albany Symphony Orchestra. “We’re
excited to finally get to work with him,” says music director
David Alan Miller, who will conduct the concert. “He’s a
patrician violinist and an elegant musician, so this will
be a great thrill.”
It’s also quite a coup for the ASO, having yet another of
the world’s top string players on the bill, following appearances
by Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. Bell is a comparatively
young artist whose repertory ranges from warhorses to works
he’s commissioned, but he’s also very aware of the history
and traditions of the violin.
biggest influence was my teacher, Josef Gingold, who was
himself an incredible violinist,” says Bell. “He introduced
me to the sound of all of the greats. We’d listen to 78s
of Kreisler and Elman and Tosha Seidel. And Heifetz, of
course. And Gingold himself was a student of Ysaÿe, so he,
too, was carrying on a valuable tradition. I think it was
very important to get early exposure to players like that.”
Bell drew national attention with his first symphonic concert
at age 14 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was quickly
followed by a Carnegie Hall debut, a recording contract
and enough prizes and international appearances to propel
him into the first rank of soloists.
The promise of Bell’s teenage years have been more than
fulfilled during the ensuing two decades. Through his many
concerts and recordings, he has maintained an impossibly
high standard of artistry. He is as comfortable playing
chamber music—usually with very distinguished colleagues—as
he is on the orchestral stage, and he even has made appearances
with such performers as James Taylor and Sting.
Bell worked with composer John Corigliano on the Academy
Award-winning score for 1999’s The Red Violin, and
even appeared (as a stand-in) in the movie itself. He also
has worked with such composers as Nicholas Maw and William
Brohn; the latter fashioned Leonard Bernstein’s music into
a “West Side Story” Suite, one of two works Bell
will perform with the Albany Symphony.
worked with Bill on the violin part,” says Bell, “tweaking
what he’d already written.” Brohn was working with Bernstein
as an arranger when he had the idea for the suite, to which
the composer gave his blessing. Bell also contributed a
fascinating cadenza that’s played near the end of the piece.
Rather than taking a song-by-song “best of” approach, the
suite makes its own unique journey, visiting familiar musical
moments along the way. In that way it’s reminiscent of a
tradition that peaked in the 19th century.
picks up on works like Sarasate’s ‘Carmen’ Suite
and those opera paraphrases by Wieniawski and others, in
that it gives the soloist some virtuoso moments.”
The big concerto on the bill is the well-known Mendelssohn
opus, a piece that has been one of the top favorites since
its 1845 premiere. And it’s one that Bell has been playing
since the start of his career. “It’s a wonderful work,”
he says, “but I’ve never been a hundred percent enamored
of the cadenza. It never knocked my socks off. So I thought,
What if I wrote my own?”
It’s known that the cadenza was written, at least in part,
by the violinist who first performed the piece. “But the
way it’s situated makes it difficult to change. It’s not
the classical kind of cadenza that ends with a long trill.
So I wrote a new one. I figured it wouldn’t kill anyone
if I did.” You’ve heard the cadenza if you have Bell’s recording
of the work with Roger Norrington conducting the Salzburg
The program also will feature the world premiere of Peter
Child’s Washington Park, a work inspired by Albany’s
very own recreational area, and Death and Transfiguration
by Richard Strauss.
Joshua Bell and the Albany Symphony Orchestra will perform
Saturday (Jan. 26) at 7:30 PM at the Palace Theatre (19
Clinton Ave., Albany). Tickets are $23 to $46. For more
info, call 465-4663.
PHOTO: Joe Schuyler
years after Henry Hwang’s Tony Award-winning play, M.
Butterfly—the story of a French diplomat posted in China
during the Vietnam War and his 20-year affair with a Chinese
opera diva—opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, we find
ourselves again in the midst of a war. A war that Hwang
described to The New York Times last month as “an
M.Butterfly war, where we are not necessarily welcome
struggling, too, with issues of racial and gender stereotypes
and prejudices—issues that figure prominently in the untwisting
story of M. Butterfly. Directed by Nick Mangano,
who has received national and regional acclaim, the production
could not be more timely.
Note for the kids and the painfully modest: This show contains
adult content and nudity.
Butterfly is currently playing at Capital Reperatory
Theatre, and runs through Feb. 10. Curtain is at 7:30 Tuesday
through Thursday, 8 PM Friday, 4 PM and 8:30 PM Saturday,
and Sunday at 2:30 PM. Tickets range from $29 to $44. For
more information, or to make reservations, call the box
office at 445-7469.