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Interview with American violinist, Joshua Bell

Tuesday, 4 May 2010 , ora 11.00

Joshua Bell, first of all, welcome to Romania! This is your third visit here but the first chamber recital you play in Bucharest. I assume you know how highly appreciated you are in our country – it is clear that the Athenaeum Hall will be full in the evening of May 11th. You are aware of the level of popularity you enjoy in Romania? And what does this new meeting with our public mean to you?

Thank you very much for your kind words! I am very happy to come back to Bucharest, but I can not say that I feel the level of popularity I enjoy. I do not have many data about this, except for the fact that I was invited to come back – I think this is a good sign – but also the fact that, every time I come back I really feel the public reacts as if they started to know me – which really gives me a feeling of comfort!
I had really positive experiences regarding the public in the previous events when I played in Romania, I felt it very warm, I felt there was a real communication. This is why I want to come back – I am looking forward to it!

You play chamber music works by Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Pablo de Sarasate. How would you describe this programme?

You see, there are different ways to make a programme. This can be compared to a ’tasting menu’ in a high class restaurant, that combines and offers, in small portions, the most diverse dishes. What I wanted to do was to compose a programme that means, for music lovers, a journey through the violin repertoire, that would carry them through different styles, to make them feel the most different feelings, some from the comic area, other dramatical, feelings related to beauty that a few of the greatest composers offer (Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky or Ravel – by his G Sonata, a masterpiece, with jazz elements). I am convinced that, at the end of the recital, the listeners will have the feeling of a complex music experience – this why I like the programme, in the first place. It is my first recital in Romania, this is why I want to emphasize that the recital is a way to live the music in a more internalized way and, in many regards, more profound than the one offered by the concerts for soloist and the symphony orchestra.

In conclusion, can we speak of a common defining element for the works in the programme, a general idea of it?

You see, I think all great classical music creations have in common the capacity to communicate universal truths, certain human general feelings. In this case, we can not speak about a thematic programme, about a theme that connects everything together; but Mozart and Beethoven go very well together and due to the influence Mozart had on Beethoven; it is interesting to follow, for example, the dramatical sense, opera-like, specific to Mozart and the way it was taken over and brought by Beethoven at another level of emotional intensity; so it seems very appropriate to me they are together in the first part of the recital.

The recital in Bucharest is a part of a large European tour, which includes also concerts in Israel. You play your extraordinary Stradivarius violin Gibson ex. Huberman in this tour?

Yes, I play this violin. At Bucharest the tour ends, it opened at Athens and included also London, Paris, Istanbul… In this moment, I speak to you from Tel Aviv, where I have concerts with Philharmonic Orchestra of Israel. I play Stradivarius which is highly respected here, in Tel Aviv, because Bronislaw Huberman created the orchestra above-mentioned. So, the fact that I have this violin and that I am in this country gives me great satisfaction. Huberman is one of the legendary violinists and I am proud to play the same instrument he did.

How would you describe your stage partener in this recital – pianist Sam Haywood and how does it feel like when you create music together with this musician?

Sam Haywood is a new collaborator of mine. I heard wonderful things about him from music fellows – among them Steven Isserlis, the violinist I have been working with for many, many years. I was looking for a pianist for this tour and he suggested Sam. This is our largest tour together, he plays wonderfully, he has a perfect music taste, he is a great artist. For me it is a new discovery, a new relationship of cooperation that goes really smoothly.

Have you ever played– or at least studied – Romanian music, by Enescu, for example? Are you interested in this repertoire?

I love this music and my teacher, Joseph Gingold, used to tell me about Enescu, when I was very little, he told me how much he respected him, what an extraordinary artist he was, as composer, violinist, pianist… Gingold would give Enescu as example of a complete musician, which inspired me very much, as a child. I haven’t played his sonatas so far, I haven’t played his music, but it is something I intend to do, I hope in the next years I shall have the opportunity to study some of his works.

’At home with friends’ – this is the title of your latest record, recorded together with American musicians, most of them less known in our country. Which is the story of this album? Is it a success, was it well-received by the lovers of classical music?

The record was done following an idea I had, because I have made many musician friends in the last 25 years, since the period of college and up to the experience as a professional. I met many artists in the classical area, of course, but not only – jazz or pop music areas, too. So I decided to make an album of duets, that capitalizes collaborations with musicians in the most different fields. This included also very famous artists in the United States of America – among whom, of course, Sting, a star everywhere – but also Josh Groban, a pop musician, very popular in America, Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the great Indian sitar interpreter Ravi Shankar, a Latin-American group I cooperated with... The record is a celebration of music as music, beyond definitions and styles. It was a project that brought me great satisfaction!
Interview by Stefan Costache
Translated by Zenovia Popa and Andreea Velicu
MA students, MTTLC, Bucharest University