Bach, Violin Concertos, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, J. Bell (Sony, 2014)
Joshua Bell joined the orchestra for Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra, a showpiece that put the audience on the edge of their seats rather than sitting back in their chairs to absorb longer musical thoughts. Bell’s clear, sweet sound was breathtaking and contrasted nicely to the darker tone drawn out of his violin in Ravel’s Tzigane for Violin and Orchestra, which followed. Ravel demands that the violinist play quite high notes on the fatter of their strings to help create this effect. The orchestra musicians, through Ravel’s imaginative orchestration, reinforced Bell’s earthy interpretation of the gypsy “hoedown” roots of the piece. Bell’s lyrical encore from the Nigel Hess’ film score Ladies in Lavender helped smooth the transition to the Pops selections comprising the second half of the program.
NSO Pops Conductor Steven Reineke and soprano Kelli O’Hara, singing with heavy amplification, offered a number of songs. Most memorable was Bernstein's Glitter and be Gay, from Candide, which includes the material from the boisterous coda in the overture heard at the beginning of the concert. Autumn Leaves, en français, and La Vie en Rose of Edith Piaf fame were quite fun. Maestro Eschenbach retook the podium to close the concert with Ravel’s La Valse, a surreal neo-Romantic Viennese waltz full of intoxicated impulses that the orchestra relished.
Anne Midgette, Josh Bell meets Kelli O’Hara: NSO shows pops side in season-opening gala (Washington Post September 23)