Joshua Bell – Voice of the Violin – Joshua Bell, violin/ Orchestra of St. Lukes/ Michael Stern, conductor/Frederic Chiu, piano/Scott Kuney, guitar/Anna Netrebko, soprano – Sony Classical

by | Nov 4, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Joshua Bell – Voice of the Violin – Joshua Bell, violin/ Orchestra of St. Lukes/ Michael Stern, conductor/Frederic Chiu, piano/Scott Kuney, guitar/Anna Netrebko, soprano – Sony Classical 97779, 53:24 ****:

Joshua Bell is a prince of the music world, an enormously appealing violinist who turns everything he touches to golden music.  From the time that his parents discovered his immense talent as a child prodigy, he has amazed the world with his innate ability to reach the heart of the listener with everything he plays.  Bell recorded his first CD at the age of nineteen.  Many listeners will have heard his playing of John Corigliano’s Academy Award-winning original score for the 1999 film, The Red Violin.  In his acceptance speech for that award, Corigliano described Bell’s significant contribution to his success this way: “…then you have to go to the voice of the violin and say, you know, you could write all the notes you want, but if someone doesn’t play them like a god, they’ll never sound that way… and Joshua Bell, the great violinist, played them like a god. Thank you, Josh.”  I have been privileged to work with both John Corigliano and Joshua Bell, and, all I can add is…absolutely. 

Many people have said that the violin is the closest instrumental sound to the human voice. In this CD, Joshua Bell takes songs that are normally regarded as written for voice and transfers them to his violin.  The results are no less than stunning.  As a vocalist, I am more than sensitive to anyone who attempts to imitate the human voice instrumentally, but this works far beyond my expectations. To say that Joshua Bell has captured the essence of the voice in his violin seems merely an understatement; to me, he has stood inside the soul of the human voice and channeled it through his instrument.  As I listen to his renditions of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” or Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” or Antonin Dvorák’s “Song of the Moon,” I can almost hear the vocal breathing in the music, and feel the vocal phrasing.  In this recording, Joshua Bell truly makes his violin sing. 

Side note:  If I could pick the perfect chamber orchestra to accompany a recording like this, the Orchestra of St. Lukes would definitely be my choice.  I would also like to add special commendations to Frederic Chiu, Scott Kuney and Anna Netrebko for their fine performances on this CD.  It is very hard to shine when in the presence of true musical royalty; but they all managed to distinguish themselves admirably. 

Tracklist:  Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14, Ave Maria, Pourquoi me réveiller from Werther, Après un rêve, Op. 7, No. 1, Song to the Moon from Rusalka, Laudate Dominum from Vesperae solennes de confessore for soloists, chorus & orchestra, K. 339, None but the Lonely Heart, Op. 6/6, Una furtiva lagrima from L’Elisir d’Amore, In trutina from Carmina Burana, May Breezes from Songs without Words, Op. 62, No. 1, Beau soir, Estrellita, Nana (Bercuese) from Siete conciones populares Espanolas, Je crois entendre encore from The Pearl Fishers, Morgen! Op. 27, No. 4. 

– Ann Stahmer

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