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Assessment: Opening the Spivey Corridor season, Joshua Bell turns the knob to 11

Violinist Joshua Bell’s recital Friday night, opening Spivey Corridor’s thirty second season, was like rummaging by means of a time capsule. It’s a curious sensation, listening to the ever-brilliant Bell as he applies his aristocratic type, as if from a bygone period, to beloved classics — two from the early nineteenth century, two from the early twentieth.

Peter Dugan, a splendid pianist along with his personal blossoming profession, made a like-minded associate. They opened with Franz Schubert’s D Main Sonatina (D. 384), charming throughout its elegantly contrasting actions. Bell’s many strengths have been instantly obvious. That silvery, shiny tone, at all times within the clouds. That whole-body enactment of the music, as he will get on tiptoe for hovering excessive notes then swoops low as he digs into the following heavy phrase, as if bodily carrying the burden of the music inside his instrument. (Bell performs on a 1713 Stradivari violin, referred to as “the Gibson,” that after belonged to Bronislaw Huberman, among the many most deliriously artistic interpreters on file.)   

After the sunny Schubert warm-up, the skies darkened for Beethoven’s C minor Violin Sonata (Op. 30, No. 2). Dugan’s rumbling piano opening had us imagining an unhinged Ludwig van himself, pounding on the keyboard, all storm and fury. The duo performed it to the hilt, and past. At instances it felt like Dugan’s very loud piano depicted the climate whereas Bell’s piercing violin was a person standing in defiance towards howling winds. In moments of calm, the 2 have been in intimate dialogue, typically very transferring.

The beautiful Adagio was lucid and easy in supply, with Bell’s closing pizzicato plucks talking to us privately, simply as an actor within the theater may step out of the motion to supply the viewers a non-public apart. They barely took a breath earlier than launching into the playful Scherzo. By ramming all of it collectively they tightened the sensation of a story. They’d us interested by the lengthy arc of a drama. Absolutely that is what Beethoven meant.

The sonata’s finale was all of the extra intense, of unpolluted assaults and ferocious strains. It was life-or-death taking part in. This superlative stage of efficiency, you needed to assume, is why Joshua Bell is a star.

The Beethoven turned out to be the night’s spotlight. 

Joshua Bell
Spivey Corridor was stuffed close to to capability for the season opening live performance.

They returned after intermission with Ernest Bloch’s “Nigun,” the center part of Baal Shem — Three Photos of Hassidic Life, from 1924. It’s typically delivered as an internalized prayer, with flashes of agitation and turmoil, but in addition moments which are meditative and confessional, with an improvisational really feel. Just like the Beethoven, Bell and Dugan performed it as extroverts at most depth and scorching warmth, a five-alarm fireplace.

Maurice Ravel, for his Violin Sonata No. 2, attractive and sophisticated, discovered inspiration in American blues and jazz, and he was among the many first European composers to place these new sounds into commonplace classical kinds, like a sonata. However by Bell and Dugan’s reckoning, this wasn’t a piece of cool French sophistication to distinction with the remainder of this system, simply one other alternative for depth and excessive virtuosity. There was one thing generic concerning the outer actions. 

The center “Blues” motion wasn’t free and didn’t swing. What the sonata lacked in character was made up for with athleticism. I’m unsure the trade-off was value it. Nonetheless, the almost-capacity Spivey viewers roared its approval. 

But it’s a classic perspective to carry out all the pieces in a roughly related type, as Bell did Friday. 

We admire in the present day’s extremely well-educated opera singers, for instance, versatile in a particularly big selection of music, in order that Baroque Handel doesn’t sound like Romantic Wagner. However we additionally adore singers from generations in the past. After we exhume their outdated 78s from that point capsule , we hear an all-purpose type that served to speak particular person interpretations — and we name it a Golden Age.


Pierre Ruhe was the founding government director and editor of ArtsATL. He’s been a critic and cultural reporter for the Washington Put up, London’s Monetary Occasions and the Atlanta Journal-Structure, and was director of inventive planning for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. He’s publications director of Early Music America.



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