Friday, January 25, 2008

Joshua Bell

Last night was the Joshua Bell concert. It was at the Stranahan, not the Peristyle as usual, and when we got there we saw why: it was completely packed. This was a welcome change from our usual symphony experience. We were still skewing the demographics by being younger than 95% of the people there; but we saw some people our age and even a few teenagers and kids, which was pretty cool.

The first piece was Corigliano's Promenade, which has musicians gradually coming onstage as the piece progresses. I loved the conceit, but thought it could have been better choreographed. The music and the pieces in general were good; I'm still not an avid fan, but I'm learning to like classical music more and understand more about it.

Joshua Bell was pretty good, but not as good as we were expecting. As Eric said, for all the hype, and the high price he was undoubtedly commanding, we should have received a nearly flawless performance, and we didn't. As I listened I thought it sounded like he was hitting a few wrong notes, but I don't know the piece, nor violin in general, and supposed it was just my ignorance. No: Eric confirmed that there had been several mistakes. (Of course, the encore piece was something from "The Red Violin," and I thought it sounded like someone jacking up a car to change a tire but he said it was a much better performance, so I'm still a Philistine.)

Admittedly, we were both prejudiced going in, me by the fame and by his attitude in an article I read about him, Eric by his looks--his hair was a little too long and his clothes a little too casual. We both thought his performance as performance was a little too forced, a little too much playing a part. As if his passion were for giving a good performance rather than for the music per se. Perhaps that's unfair; but that's how we perceived it. We saw Anne Akiko Meyers, also a violin soloist, last year, and her passion was evident and genuine: she played well because she loved it well--and Eric said she was the better performer, and while I'm a Philistine I agree. We would much rather see her again than Joshua Bell. Still, it was a nice concert--the orchestra itself was in good form, as usual--and I'm really glad we have these tickets now that we won't be going out much otherwise for a while.

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