Violinist Joshua Bell was the featured performer for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s concert this past weekend. The audience that arrived for the sold-out performance (the choral terrace seats were opened to comply with the demand) and sat through the first half of a glorious concert was not disheartened when Joshua, sporting a sleek, casual black shirt and pants, graced the stage following intermission.
We knew we were in good hands from the moment he brought his bow to his violin (a 1713 Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius) for Max Bruch’s (1838-1920) romantic and hypnotic Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, op. 26. The concerto is affecting and Joshua was a master at bringing the composer’s sentiments to the fore. I have referred to Joshua in an earlier post as a “rock star” and once again, he proved that he can “rock” the stage, even if the melody is softer than a Bon Jovi concert. Joshua maintained full control of the masterpiece and was stunning in his interpretation of Bruch. It was easy to be in awe of Joshua’s performance, as easy as it was for the violinist to play the tender second movement.
Bruch’s concerto requires a certain grace and delicacy for its explicit romantic theme and Joshua did not disappoint. Immersing himself with the orchestra was not challenging for the violinist. Even during the energetic third movement, Joshua maintained a refinement that is noticeable with seasoned musicians.
The orchestra’s own elegance and ability to make the composition shine held throughout the 26 minutes.
The audience roared with applause after the final note and expressed their pleasure with four standing ovations. Joshua, JSO Principal Harpist Kayo Ishimaru and the orchestra complied with an encore of Jules Massenet’s (1842-1912) “Méditation” from the opera Thaïs. If you have ever heard “Méditation” then you would understand why a collective sigh spread throughout the hall when Joshua announced it to the audience. If not, it is a well-known and adored melody from the opera that is often performed with solo violin and harp. Joshua again delivered the music with sophisticated poise, which was followed with another heavy applause from a grateful audience.
The JSO opened the concert with Antonin Dvořák’s (1841-1904) light, fun and rousing Carnival Overture, op. 92. Dvořák was followed with Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770-1827) Symphony No. 8 in F Major, op. 93. This is one of Beethoven’s more simplistic and light symphonies. There is sonata, there is dance and there is an airy tone in the overall theme of this work. It is Beethoven all over—picturesque. Though the piece may not be the main course of the meal, it is held above appetizer—it is the soup and salad of a concert evening.
Conductor Fabio Mechetti led both the Dvořák overture and Beethoven symphony without a score, as he often does during JSO concerts. This is a testament to his outstanding aptitude as it is clear he knows the pieces intimately. As well, the orchestra’s talent shone magnificently through the notes of Beethoven.
Upcoming Jacksonville Symphony Classical Concert:
Jan. 20 & 21, 2012
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 2
with: Inon Barnatan
Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol
Berlioz: Overture, The Roman Carnival
Upcoming Joshua Bell Performances:
Jan. 13, 2012
Williamette University – Salem, OR
Jan. 14 – 16, 2012
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall – Portland, OR
Jan. 20, 2012
Jones Hall – Houston, TX