Bell Joshu1Education Should Start With Music
Joshua Bell in Recital (violin) with Sam Haywood (pianist)
March 14, 2015
Recital Location: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts, Kansas City, Mo.
On Tour March-May 2015 United States, Canada and Europe
Joshua Bell and his exquisite Huberman Stradivari violin presented a recital program in the Kansas City area for the fifth time in eight years. Acoustics in this recital hall are wonderfully wrought, making the almost two-hour long program go by rapidly. Bell, also the Music Director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Field, is a firm believer in music education  and said, in the Greet session after the recital, that reducing music education in schools is like an “educational lobotomy.“  He practices music at a slow tempo for control and Bach solo’s for perfection. Bell got his first violin when he was four years of age and made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 12 and at age 17 in Carnegie Hall. He has recorded more than 40 CD’s. Bell's name came to the forefront of movie fans from the soundtrack of the film, "The Red Violin."  The music score by composer John Corigliano won an Academy Award.
Sam Haywood, the pianist, is Artistic Director of the Solent Music Festival. He has received the honored Isserlis Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society. Haywood’s music interest is in opera and he has written a children’s opera.  The two musicians were on top of their game throughout the program, from beginnings to endings. They play as one and this is what accompanying is about---for that period in time, the accompanist blends with the soloist.
Bell stands center stage, facing to the audience right, with the piano to his left side. He uses music and turns his own pages. Dress attire is not formal, but slacks, dress shirt and a vest. Helzberg Hall is lined in light colored wood so acoustics are excellent. It is also the organ recital hall. The audiences faces the organ, which is above the stage and then above a 4-row choir section, with the organist back to the audience suspended 8 feet above the choir. The 5000 organ pipes of the Casavant Organ are hidden, but on either side of the organ, are replicas of organ pipes in disarray, so when you look at this, it is as though the tornado from “The Wizard of Oz” just came through. 
The first part of the March 14 program contained  Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 4 for Violin and Piano in A minor, Op. 23" (1800) and Edvard Grieg’s “Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in F major, Op. 8" (1865). You could hear the beginning of Romanticism in Beethoven and go into Grieg’s development with lighter melodies and even plucking the strings of the violin.
The second part of the recital had Brahms “Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in G major, Op. 78” (1879) and Bela Bartok’s “Rhapsody No. 1 for Violin and Piano ’Folk Dances’”  (1928.)  Brahms, indeed, produced full and rich music here, especially the “Vivace” and “Allegro.” In contrast, Bartok’s “Rhapsody” borrowed from Hungarian folk dances and used plucked strings that gave a country feel to the music. By this time the audience was ready to stay the night in the recital hall.
Encores were an arrangement for piano and violin of Chopin’s “Nocturne in C sharp minor” and after another standing ovation, Brahms “Hungarian Dance #1.”  Then,  Bell did something unusual in touring, he stayed in the auditorium for a “Meet and Greet” session and took questions from the audience. There you find out about his involvement in music education. How to keep fresh on tour? “As a solo artist,” he stated,” it is not an issue, as each audience is different.” (plus he varies the music he plays on tour.)
The inevitable question was asked about the Huberman Stradivari Violin he plays. Briefly, the violin was made in 1713 and went through several owners, even being stolen and thought lost for 49 years. The thief, on his deathbed, confessed to his wife about the violin and she returned it to the insurance company. It had to be restored, as someone had painted over the wood! In 2001, Joshua Bell came upon the violin by accident while purchasing violin strings and met the owner. Bell now plays the 302 year old violin in his concerts, and it is not stored away, but can be seen and heard. The sound is magical. Sometimes, some things are meant to be.
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner
For more concert reviews, see the following:
Swingle Singers
Lyle Lovett