Friday, November 15, 2013

Joshua Bell & Sam Haywood - Tartini, Beethoven & Stravinsky - 11/12/13

Tartini: Violin Sonata in G Major, "Devil's Trill Sonata"
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No 10 in G Major, Op. 96
Stravinsky: Divertimento

Although I think that Carnegie Hall’s beautiful Stern Auditorium is unquestionably too large for recitals, I find myself in it pretty much every time the headliners are simply too hard to resist, which means fairly frequently. Tuesday night was another one of those not-to-be-missed occasions, with Joshua Bell and Sam Haywood stopping by on their annual US tour.
The official program, which included works by the Italian Tartini, the German Beethoven and the Russian Stravinsky, sounded appealing enough, if rather short, but then we were informed that additional works would be announced from the stage. So without further ado, my friend Linden and I took our seats in the nearly full concert hall and waited for the guys to show up.

Violinist and composer Tartini may or may not have actually seen the devil in his dream, but his diabolically virtuosic “Devil’s Trill Sonata” sure sounds like it was born of a supernatural intervention. Although the violin was the undisputed star of the piece, it would not have sounded as good without the piano discreetly but efficiently doing its thing as well. As performed by Joshua Bell and Sam Haywood on Tuesday night, the music unfolded with vibrant colors and gasp-inducing feats that only made us wish that it could go on a little longer.
Since this was not meant to be, we moved to the rather sedate sonata No 10 by Beethoven, which reminded us all that the moody composer could be quite introspective too. That being said, just as we were happily settling in, the overall dreaminess gave way to sudden outbursts of vivacity towards the end, all the way to the sparkling finish.
The question mark of the evening was definitely Stravinsky, whose name I never would have expected to appear on a program featuring Joshua Bell. And the fact of the matter is, the unusual experience was exciting and enjoyable, the idiosyncratic Divertimento turning out to be a surprisingly natural fit for a violinist who has become world famous for his dazzling performances of the big Romantic concertos. True, the composition is such a brilliant feast of quirky ideas that it would have been hard not to be drawn into it, especially when performed by the two consummate professionals we had onstage.

The promised additional works turned out to be a couple of encores, starting with Tchaikovsky's Mélodie from "Souvenir d'un lieu cher", which, beside the obvious nod to Stravinsky, finally brought Joshua Bell back into his natural element and gave him the perfect opportunity to fully display his much celebrated, unabashedly lyrical tone.
The second encore, Wieniawski's "Polonaise brillante", was a fun exercise, in which the violin got to shine in many ways, solidly accompanied by the faithful piano. And that was already it.

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