JOSHUA BELL
CONCERT ASSOCIATION (2-27-06) 
MAGIC TOUCH BY VIOLINIST

By Lawrence Budmen

With his distinctive sound and deeply personal interpretive approach, Joshua Bell is reminiscent of the great violinists of the early 20th century rather than the streamlined bravura players of today. 

The Concert Association presented Bell in a rare solo recital on Monday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Jeremy Denk, a pianist of exceptional gifts, was his collaborator. 

With a nod to the Mozart year, Bell commenced with the Sonata No.2 in G Major. This was not the high powered Mozart playing that Gil Shaham offered last week. Yet Bellís cooler, more cerebral approach was no less persuasive. The two Allegro movements whizzed by with such brio that Bellís elasticity of phrase and eloquently stated utterance were easily masked. His sweetness of tone and expressive manner recalled the Mozart performances of Misha Elman. 

Bell attacked the Presto in Beethovenís Sonata No.9 in A Major (Kreutzer) with bold accents and fierce momentum. Beethovenís titanic sense of struggle was strongly conveyed. The violinistís understated manner in the Andante con Variazioni gave the music space, depth, and gracefulness of expression. Bell played the Presto at a devilishly fast pace that concluded in a blaze of violinistic fireworks. Denk was a full partner in the best sense of the term. He is a pianist of exceptional clarity, musical insight, and artistic generosity. This young artistís rhythmically incisive, sensitive playing is in the patrician manner of Richard Goode. 

Bell delivered Bartokís Rhapsody No.1 (based on Hungarian peasant dances) with Magyar gusto. The concluding Friss had fierce abandon and disarming charm in equal measure. Bell brought soaring lyricism and gossamer beauty to the outer movements of Prokofievís Five Melodies (1925). 

In the salon vignette Caprice díapres líetude en Forme de Valse de Saint-Saens by Eugene Ysaye (who taught Josef Gingold, Bellís teacher), the violinist gave full vent to his romantic predilections Ė playing triple stops at break neck speed. Tchaikovskyís Melodie was an inspired encore. Bellís velvety tone and Tchaikovskyís Slavic melancholia provided a perfect conclusion to an evening of violinistic nostalgia. 


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