Joshua Bell | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Joshua Bell


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John Corigliano's first film score, for the 1980 movie Altered States, earned the neoromantic composer an Oscar nomination, but tussles with director Ken Russell over creative control soured him on Hollywood. He didn't return to film for five years, and his next score--for Revolution, a British-Norwegian production about the American war for independence--was tampered with when the studio reedited the picture at the last minute. But when director Francois Girard asked him to score his independent film The Red Violin two years ago, the composer jumped. The story line would follow a prized violin through five countries and four centuries, and the movie's music would travel with it; Corigliano's fluency in multiple idioms made him a natural for the job, and Girard had already chosen violinist Joshua Bell, a champion of Corigliano's work, to give the titular instrument its voice. Corigliano started composing even before the film was completely edited, which meant he had to work backward: most composers write concert versions of their film scores after the fact, condensing themes from the movie's sound track, but he started with a concert piece and later expanded it into a full score. The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra takes as its foundation a seven-chord dance built over a bass ostinato, and in the course of 18 minutes its sweet melody--first heard in the movie hummed by the violin maker's wife--recurs repeatedly, each time corresponding to another character or era and ranging from a murmur to a thunderous outburst. The piece is haunting and evocative, and Bell, a prodigy who's lived up to his early promise, tackles the demanding, flamboyant solo turns with finesse. Here he'll perform the chaconne with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach. Bell will also solo in Ravel's Tzigane; Dvorak's overture Carneval and Brahms's Symphony no. 2 round out the program. Friday, 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mark Sink.

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