Joshua Bell At Home With Friends – The violinist’s guests include: Chris Botti, Sting, Josh Groban, Tiempo Libre, Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Frankie Moreno, Regina Spektor, Dave Grusin, Chris Thile, Anoushka Shankar, Marvin Hamlisch – Sony Classical 8697-52716-2 **** [Release date: 9/29/09]:
This is a wonderful crossover compilation, inspired by Bell’s practice of hosting informal musical get-togethers in his Manhattan home. The 16 tracks bring in some of his musical friends from many different areas, and I liked the effort to expose pop fans to a bit of classical – namely the two selections involving Rachmaninoff and the Renaissance song Come Again sung by String. The first may shock readers to see Rachmaninoff’s name as one of Bell’s friends, but this is one of the selections from the Zenph Re-Performance CD we just reviewed (twice) – the movement from the Grieg violin sonata he recorded in 1928, cleaned up for playback on a modern grand piano, with Joshua Bell taking the violin part. The other Rachmaninoff is a performance of his well-known song O, Cease They Singing, Maiden Fair, by baritone Nathan Gunn and Bell.
There are also forays into world music with the Cuban group who recently recorded Bach with James Galway – Tiempo Libre, as well as a bit of a duet for sitar and violin with a daughter of Ravi Shankar. I loved the inclusion of the bandoneon in two of the tracks: Piazzolla’s Oblivion and the theme from Cinema Paradiso, beautifully sung by Josh Groban. Probably the most striking track on the album for me was a gorgeous arrangement of Eleanor Rigby with Frankie Moreno (who was new to me) doing both the vocal and piano work with Bell on violin. There are several tracks with vocalists I’ve frankly never heard of either, but they’re all very listenable.
There’s no real gimmick to this crossover effort – just a relaxed celebration of some inspiring music-making by a bunch of musical friends. This disc will probably be a bigger seller than any of Bell’s previous recordings or collaborations.
– John Sunier