Bell, St. Martin give precise and pleasing show

03.27.18
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Palm Beach Daily News

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and its director, famed violinist Joshua Bell, visited the Kravis Center Monday night as part of the Regional Arts Classical Concert Series.
Bell switched roles of concertmaster and soloist, all while leading the orchestra.

First up was Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture, Op. 21. The opening woodwind chords were like lasers, with clear tone and no vibrato. The strings jumped in with a light, precise sound, which was remarkably clean. What often sounds like a general buzzing in many orchestras came across as clear, audible voices here. The violins united in the second theme, where the horns played with a bold edge. Even the trickiest of moments, such as when the strings are plucking in unison, were in lock step.

Next was Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22 by the Polish composer Henryk Wieniawski, like Bell, a well-known violinist. On its surface, this concerto has a lot in common with 100 other minor key pieces of its time. It is dramatic, it is lyrical, and it has the unmistakable aroma of Ludwig van Beethoven. It also has several highlighted moments of woodwind solos, and a chance for the brass to step up to the plate.

In this performance, of course, the standout is the sound of Bell himself. His tone is so good, and immediately identifiable, even with your eyes closed. The third movement was where the virtuosic goods were kept, and Bell rose to the occasion. There was a moment where the ensemble pulled apart just a bit when trying to match Bell’s downbeat, but that could be considered a single grain of sand in an otherwise pristine microchip.
 
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