HOMECOMING: Joshua Bell’s Strathmore concert was like a big ‘ole’ homecoming with all the family assembled.
by Patrick D. McCoy
On Sunday November 5, violinist Joshua Bell returned to the Washington area to perform in concert at the Music Center at Strathmore under the auspices of Washington Performing Arts. There is no denying that he is certainly a celebrated artist, especially in the DC area. Whether he is playing at random at the metro station, The White House or some other high-profile venue, Joshua Bell is one of the artists that makes the audience feel like he is a part of the family.
The mood in the hall was one of great anticipation for Bell’s arrival on stage. For many, he is not just a violinist, but a down to earth musician who has the power to bring classical music to the masses with a touch of humility. Like any homecoming, you would bring home all the favorites: the stories, experiences and even favorite dishes. That is what Bell served up on Sunday.
For his afternoon program, Bell relied on the composers and repertoire that have served him well in his storied career. Opening with the Violin Sonata in F Major by Felix Mendelssohn, Bell gave a vignette of what was to come. In three movements, the Allegro Vivace certainly a tour-de-force, displaying the virtuosity of his playing and the tossing off of the intricate passage work like child’s play. Deeply expressive, the Adagio was played with such emotion and lushness of tone. Closing the sonata was the Assai vivace, which brought forth the applause of the large audience.
The Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 45 by Edward Grieg followed next. With all three movements for the most part moving a moderate tempo, Bell brought a sense of balance and expression to each. His pianist Alessio Bax was equally expressive, playing as if he were a trio with Bell: two hands and the violin. The blend between the two artist was simply wonderful.
Ending the program was the stately Violin Sonata No.1 in G Major, Op. 78 by Johannes Brahms, which accorded rapturous applause and a standing ovation from the full house. Bell then offered three encores, which included the timeless “Meditation” from Massenet’s Thaïs.
UPCOMING PERFORMANCES WITH WASHINGTON PERFORMING ARTS:
Sunday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m.-Mariinsky Orchestra with conductor Valery Gergiev and pianist Daniil Trifonov-Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Friday, January 26, 8 p.m. Violinist Maxim Vengerov at the Music Center at Strathmore, Friday February 23, 8 p.m.-Kennedy Center Concert Hall, In Memory of Isaac Stern with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Leonidas Kavakos and pianist Emanuel Ax. For all performances of the 2017-18 season, visit www.washingtonperformingarts.org
A native of Petersburg, Virginia, Patrick D. McCoy is a graduate of Virginia State University and Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia. He has been an arts contributor for Examiner.com, CBS Washington, The Afro American Newspaper and most recently was the Performing Arts Columnist at Washington Life Magazine for whom he interviewed Joshua Bell for the magazine’s arts column “Perfect Pitch.” As a church musician, he currently serves as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church (Zion Parish) in Beltsville, Maryland. Visit www.patrickdmccoy.com for all of your arts news and send press releases and ideas to email@example.com. He dedicates his musical pursuits to the Glory of God, in loving memory of his mother Velma Ann McCoy-Pulley (1956-2017).