Joshua Bell, violinist (photo courtesy of Sony Music)
One criticism that could be raised against Bell's approach to music is that his tone is too consistently pretty, that after listening to him play for two hours, one's teeth hurt from all that sugary legato. Indeed, the strongest works of the evening were the more bitingly dissonant ones, especially Leoš Janáček's violin sonata, which opened the concert. With fewer long-breathed melodies to indulge in, Bell embraced the impetuous speech-like character of this music, like so much of Janáček's music influenced by his study of the rhythms of Czech speech and his study of folk music. The chattering motifs of the first movement were balanced by the profound calm of the second, and the raucous roulades and modal, clownish tunes of the third. Bell's attention to using a full range of dynamics and tone colors was matched by his expressive partner, pianist Jeremy Denk, who kept pace with Bell through it all. One hopes that a recording of the work is being planned.
Franck Sonata, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Anne Midgette, Violinist Joshua Bell, Pretty Darn Good (Washington Post, February 6)
T. L. Ponick, Bell, Denk share their virtuosity (Washington Times, February 6)
The next great virtuoso invited by Washington Performing Arts Society is pianist Evgeny Kissin, who will play a recital in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (March 1, 4 pm).