Joshua Bell | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Since making his Carnegie Hall debut 20 years ago, when he was only 17, violinist Joshua Bell has received an astonishing number of Grammy nominations and awards, particularly for a classical musician, but he's also done successful crossover recordings, including a fabulous bluegrass album with bassist Edgar Meyer, The Short Trip Home. His Romance of the Violin CD has been in the top ten on Billboard's classical chart for at least 50 weeks, though it has an easy-listening streak that makes it much less satisfying than his fiery Kreisler Album or his recording of the Mendelssohn and Beethoven concerti, for which he wrote his own cadenzas. Bell, who was born and raised in Indiana, has many strengths--an unusually sweet tone, lyrical and refined phrasing, virtuosity that can sizzle. Most of the time he performs concerti, but he's now on a monthlong tour doing chamber music. "With a concerto I go out and play for 27 minutes and I'm done," he says. "I like the intimacy of a recital program." This one opens with Brahms's Violin Sonata no. 1, one of the warmest, most beautiful sonatas ever written for the instrument: it begins with a stunning simplicity and grows increasingly lush and passionate. Janacek's Sonata for Violin and Piano starts with broad strokes from the unaccompanied violin, followed by short tremolos from the piano that the violin takes over in pizzicato--it's filled with dynamic and textural contrasts, the composer's unique rhythmic language, and a good dose of romanticism. Bell will also play Bartok folk tunes, Saint-Saens's Violin Sonata no. 1, and Wieniawski's Variations on an Original Theme for Violin and Piano. The pianist will be Jeremy Denk. Tue 2/15, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $30-$46.

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