Artist note by Richard Evidon
Joshua Bell would be the first to acknowledge that he was born in the right place at the right time.
The violin prodigy grew up in Bloomington, where his father was a noted psychology professor at the University of Indiana. That institution also happens to have one of America’s leading music conservatories, and there, at the age of 12, Joshua Bell was accepted as a pupil by the great violinist and teacher Josef Gingold, who became his mentor. Here’s a film of 14-year-old Josh in a Gingold masterclass in 1984:
That same year he appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, and four years later, he signed with Decca and began a remarkable series of recordings for the British label. They include a revelatory reading of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, recorded in 1997, and that summer, not yet 30, he was filmed in a staggering performance of the Barber at the BBC Proms. In this video of the entire (excellent) Dallas Symphony concert, conducted by Andrew Litton, the concerto begins around 19:20:
For his Schubert Club debut in 1990 Bell included one of Beethoven’s Op. 30 sonatas in his program, and in 2015 he played another, the “Kreutzer”. Here he is in Hungary in 2010 giving an incandescent performance of that work’s first movement with the late, brilliant Hungarian pianist Zóltan Kocsis:
In his debut Bell also played Wieniawski’s D major Polonaise, while at his most recent St. Paul recital in 2019, Bell played Bach’s C minor Sonata and Schubert’s B minor Rondo. All three works are included in this recital with pianist Alessio Bax filmed in 2021:
The Franck Violin Sonata featured in his recitals in 2015 and 2019. Here he plays the finale with pianist Jeremy Denk in a 2011 “Vanguard Concert” from the Violin Channel:
In this unusually thoughtful, informative interview from 2015, Joshua Bell talks perceptively about performing, music in general, and studying with Josef Gingold.