PICTURED: Joshua Bell Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Dynamic, soulful, elegant, emotional — the many expressions violinist Joshua Bell can elicit from the violin has made him one of today’s most celebrated classical musicians. He will make his first appearance at the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center (the PACC) on Sunday, in an intimate recital co-presented by the Ventura Music Festival and New West Symphony. It should be one to remember.
Bell’s selections include two pieces by Belgian violinist, conductor and composer Eugène-Auguste Ysaÿe, Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 27, “Ballade,” and Caprice d’apres l’Etude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns. Bell has a special connection to Ysaÿe: His own teacher, Josef Gingold, was a student of Ysaÿe.
“Gingold himself was the one that premiered the Ballade,” Bell said during an Oct. 8 conference call. “I learned it with him when I was 13 years old. . . . The Ballade is an incredible piece. . . . It’s got so many amazing harmonies and colors.”
Bell loves Ysaÿe, and it shows: A few other pieces on the program have an association with the composer. Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor, BWV 1017, is fitting, as “the Ysaÿe sonatas are inspired by Bach.”
“The Franck is another connection to Ysaÿe,” he added, regarding Sonata in A Major for
Violin and Piano. “It was written for Ysaÿe; it was Ysaÿe’s wedding present.”
Ysaÿe often performed it with his brother, Théo, a gifted pianist, and thus it makes a suitable showcase for the skills of Alessio Bax, who joins Bell on this tour.
“Alessio is a wonderful pianist,” said Bell. “He lives in New York, but he’s from Italy. He’s a very tasteful, wonderful pianist. And he’s a fun companion to travel with! He loves food as much as I do.”
Fans of the GRAMMY-winning violinist (who gained wider appeal with appearances on the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle) have found that every Bell performance is unique, even when he takes on material with which he has a long history.
“All these pieces, they evolve,” explained Bell. “Every time you start with someone new, it introduces new thoughts, new arguments. Even today [during practice] . . . I found new colors in the violin that I felt suited the music in ways that I hadn’t thought of before. . . . That stuff keeps evolving. It’s important for us instrumentalists, even if it’s a piece you’ve done so many times, to keep looking at it, keep thinking, ‘am I doing this just because I’ve always done it since I was 12 years old? Or is this really serving the music in the best way?’ So you have to keep challenging yourself to find new ways to do it. And then it ends up being a slightly different piece automatically that way. That’s the fun part of repeating pieces, and doing it with new pianists. . . . It will be a new experience.”
Joshua Bell in recital with Alessio Bax on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 3 p.m. at the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard. For tickets and more information, call 805-497-5800 or visit newwestsymphony.org.