- - Sunday, March 29, 2015

Violinist Joshua Bell fills concert halls worldwide, whether he is performing as a soloist with a symphony orchestra, conducting, performing with a chamber group or presenting a recital.

On Tuesday evening, Mr. Bell and British pianist Sam Haywood will fill the Kennedy Center Symphony Hall with a program fulfilling his constant quest to balance “the right amount of meat and potatoes.” The program will present contrasting works by Beethoven, Grieg, Brahms and Bartok.

“We open with the Beethoven Sonata No. 4 (1796), a great way to start because it grabs you with intensity,” Mr. Bell told The Washington Times. “Since it’s performed less often than his other sonatas, I thought it would be a good place to begin.

Next will be Grieg’s Sonata No. 1 (1865), which Mr. Bell described as “folksy and more flashy.”

“The meat, or the centerpiece of the program, is the Brahms Sonata No. 1 (1878),” Mr. Bell said. “This is a pretty serious work, and it may be the greatest sonata written for these two instruments. It’s liquid, like poetry, and the ending in D major connects it with the first note of the final piece, Bartok’s Rhapsody No. 1 (1928) — a perfect way to end the program. It is bombastic, raucous and filled with Eastern European Gypsy fiddle sounds based on Hungarian dances and folk music.”

Mr. Bell and Mr. Haywood have worked together seamlessly on- and offstage for years. Their partnership, Mr. Bell said, involves no ego fights and is all about the music. Mr. Bell said Mr. Haywood is a great partner on stage and a pleasant traveling companion with a wonderful sense of humor.

After the concert, Mr. Bell will sign CDs in the grand foyer. His recordings showcase partnerships with bluegrass bassist Edgar Meyer, trumpeter Chris Botti and even Sting. Many of his more than 40 recordings have soared to the peak of the Billboard charts. The most recent was an album of Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 with the famed Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, where he has been music director for three years.

“This is the most important musical experience for me in the last decade,” Mr. Bell said. “I’m learning a lot on the job. It focuses me on how to lead [from the first violin chair], articulate the way I want, and it has a ripple effect in all I do and the way I interpret each work.”

Mr. Bell devotes considerable time to mentoring young musicians. He hopes his recent HBO special made an impact on participants and viewers.

“I’m very grateful to Gene Weingarten for The Washington Post story he wrote because it grabbed people’s attention about the need for music in our lives. My dream is to engage all young people in music.”

The Pulitzer Prize-winning article told of Mr. Bell playing incognito in the Washington Metro. Few of the thousands passing by paused to listen.

The story concluded recently when he returned to the Metro, this time to play for a crowd eager to hear the violinist regarded as possibly the world’s greatest.

Growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, he honed his gifts from age 4 with help from his musical family and the extraordinary faculty at nearby Indiana University, most notably his mentor, Josef Gingold. His debut at age 14 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Carnegie Hall three years later launched his career, which has been going nonstop for 30 years.

Today he owns the 1713 Gibson ex Huberman, a 300-year-old Stradivarius with a convoluted history worthy of a movie.

“It’s a privilege to play this violin every day,” he said. “It’s an inspiration just to open the case, to look at it and know that it’s mine.”


WHAT: Washington Performing Arts presents Joshua Bell, violinist, and Sam Haywood, piano

WHERE: Kennedy Center Concert Hall

WHEN: Tuesday, 8 p.m.

INFO: Tickets $45 to $115 by calling 202/467-4600 or 800/444-1324, or by visiting Kennedy-Center.org

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