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Monday, January 30, 2023

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Joshua Bell in the Konzerthaus: Modern Devil’s Violinist

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Niccolò Paganini’s reputation as an eccentric devil violinist preceded him. With his art of playing the violin at the highest level, he electrified audiences in Europe. He composed his Violin Concerto No. 1 with all available refinements entirely for his virtuoso hands and premiered it in 1819.

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A good two hundred years later, Joshua Bell is on the stage of the Konzerthaus with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. He is the modern version of the devil’s violinist: his virtuosity is in no way inferior to Bell Paganini. The bow jumps, the fingers fly and double stops, airy trills or the longest leaps through all pitches sound with an ease that overwhelms the audience. The applause erupts after the first sentence.

Sparkling Paganini

The cadenza developed by Bell also fits wonderfully into the overall concept of the violin concerto. The violinist also conducts the British Chamber Orchestra, his instrument always at the ready at his shoulder. The orchestra can show off especially in the tutti. Paganini’s sonorous orchestral introduction is almost reminiscent of the opulent sound of Viennese waltzes, although he only got to know the Danube city twelve years after the composition.

Exciting Schumann

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Paganini’s violin concerto will be framed in the evening’s program by works by Robert Schumann. Fascinated by Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin, Schumann composed a piano accompaniment for which Joshua Bell in turn commissioned an orchestral version: the violin mixes with the reserved accompanying string orchestra, woodwinds are used only occasionally. This work also impresses with its virtuosity. Technical challenges can be found to a similar extent as in Paganini, even if these come to the fore less than conspicuous features.

For Schumann’s 2nd symphony, Joshua Bell joins the orchestra as concertmaster after the interval. Here he conducts from his seat, often without playing along himself. The slow third movement in particular sounds tense, in the finely differentiated wind solos Bell also lets others take the lead. The orchestra’s dialogue highlights Schumann’s various characters, ranging from melodic and thoughtful to chordal and gripping, and culminates in a powerful finale that is rewarded with strong applause in the sold-out hall.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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