Review: On Thanksgiving, Gratitude for a Dependable Violin


Thanksgiving is a time to really feel gratitude for issues we take for granted throughout the remainder of the yr. So it’s acceptable that the violinist Joshua Bell is showing this week with the New York Philharmonic.

Bell is considered one of classical music’s greatest, most salable stars, and he excursions diligently. However he doesn’t tackle new work with the enthusiasm of Renée Fleming, or unveil splashy unions of Bach and social justice like Yo-Yo Ma. Much less observed by the press than these two — and lots of others far much less well-known — Bell simply performs, not often veering today from absolutely the heart of the usual repertory.

But when he simply performs, that enjoying is nearly uncannily beautiful. On Wednesday at Alice Tully Corridor, he made not a single ugly sound in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. At 53, his face stays preternaturally youthful, and his tone is equally unlined. If the solo half on this work is commonly an exuberant unspooling of golden wire, Bell’s wire was all the time gleaming and clean, by no means skinny or reducing.

When he wasn’t enjoying, he swayed a bit to the orchestral accompaniment, and typically turned from the viewers completely to absorb the mass of musicians. (Whereas Jaap van Zweden, the Philharmonic’s music director, was on the rostrum at Tully, Bell, who has led the Academy of St. Martin within the Fields for nearly 10 years, is by now used to main an ensemble whereas soloing.) At one level he even made a tiny, enthusiastic stomp on the stage.

However whereas Bell is a genial companion for an ensemble, there’s something sedate about him — all the time fulfilling, by no means intense or sudden. He’s, for higher and worse, dependability itself.

He got here closest to shocking within the cadenza he created for the primary motion, which had ruminative dissonances and full of life string crossings. However you would need to be beneficiant to explain even this as really passionate.

The Philharmonic performed with mahogany-rich ardor within the strings in that opening motion, and its winds have been sleek within the second. Within the third, van Zweden paced a burnished Allegro, extra aristocratic than enjoyable or wild. That appeared simply tremendous for Bell, whose enjoying smiles however by no means grins, and definitely by no means loses its cool.

This system was an inversion of the standard ordering of a live performance’s halves. The Beethoven concerto, at 45 minutes probably the most substantial work, sat alone earlier than intermission; after the pause got here Chen Yi’s transient however meaty and assorted “Duo Ye” for chamber orchestra, then Stravinsky’s 25-minute “Pulcinella” Suite.

These final two items performed properly collectively. Written within the Eighties and impressed by a people efficiency Chen attended round a bonfire in a Chinese language village, “Duo Ye” has vitality in passages for sharp, crisp percussion and thriller in its dreamy duet of violas and vibraphone. Maybe it was this system’s juxtaposition, however Stravinsky appeared within the air: Some moments in “Duo Ye” evoked a friendlier “Ceremony of Spring,” others the woodblock-stark angularity of “Les Noces” — each items which, like Chen’s, find within the primitive a genesis of modernism.

“Pulcinella” was additionally a modernist’s look again — however to the sleek power of early 18th-century Italian music, which Stravinsky transposed into ethereal but tender preparations. Together with vibrant, buoyant enjoying by the flutist Alison Fierst and by the featured string quintet on the work’s heart, the eight sections on Wednesday had vacation conviviality.

New York Philharmonic

This program continues via Saturday at Alice Tully Corridor, Manhattan; nyphil.org.



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