Interview with Joshua Bell: Brahms, Cuba and Music Education border=0 align=

Interview with Joshua Bell: Brahms, Cuba and Music Education

October 26, 2016, 5:37 PM · These days, Joshua Bell wears many hats: concert artist, conductor, cultural diplomat, educator. And he's keeping busy. As Music Director of the London-based Academy of St Martin in the Fields since 2011, Bell spends much of the year touring with that group, both playing and conducting. He also just released an all-Brahms album called For the Love of Brahms.

In April he traveled to Cuba as part of a U.S. government-led cultural exchange, and on Nov. 1 he will host Live from Lincoln Center: Seasons of Cuba, which came about as a result of that trip. The next day, on Nov. 2, he will perform in a recital at Alice Tully Hall with pianist Alessio Bax.

Bell is involved with a number of political and educational initiatives: he is a member of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and an artist for Turnaround Arts, which helps provide arts education to low-performing elementary and middle schools.

When Bell was in Los Angeles, we talked about conducting, Brahms, his trip to Cuba and the state of music, both there and in the United States. Keep reading...

A Tribute to Barry Socher border=0 align=

A Tribute to Barry Socher

October 25, 2016, 7:02 PM · In most fairy tales, the good guy wins. How many stories have we known about princesses and monsters, in which the bad guy gets captured or slaughtered, and the good guy lives happily ever after?

Well, spoiler alert: in Barry Socher’s beloved "The Monster and the Maiden" for string quartet and narrator, the Monster is the one who lives happily ever after.

There was also Pachelbel’s "Cannonball", where the first violinist of a string quartet - usually Barry - would genteelly announce to an audience that they would now be indulged in an encore of Pachelbel’s overplayed Canon in D, much to the chagrin of the quartet’s cellist (who just mindlessly repeats the bassline for the entirety of Pachelbel’s original Canon while the other instruments get the tune). The cellist would begin grumbling, and then eventually explode at Barry during the announcement (cheekily underlining the possible tensions that might exist within a professional string quartet).

Audiences wouldn’t know what to make of the fiasco, but once the quartet starting playing, the cellist would begin to derail Pachelbel’s "Canon" with successively disruptive variations starting with weird accents or obviously wrong notes. After getting some confidence and playing to the crowd, they’d then unabashedly throw in some "Hey Jude", and ultimately end with gloriously dissonant, disruptive passages worthy of Charles Ives. The crowd would be roaring at the end. The members of the quartet might be shaking with silent tears of laughter. I usually was.

Barry kept the straightest face throughout it all, throwing dirty looks at the cellist the whole time - in the case of the time I played it with him, the LA Phil’s Associate Principal Cellist, Daniel Rothmuller, a colleague of Barry’s for nearly 4 decades.

Of course, Barry planned it all.

On Saturday evening, the LA Phil walked off the stage at Walt Disney Concert Hall after a performance of Mahler’s 9th Symphony, and somehow, I wasn’t surprised to hear that Barry had passed away at 8:40pm. Barry, who was 69, had been valiantly battling cancer for a few years and had recently made the shift to hospice care. Gustavo dedicated the Sunday matinee performance to Barry’s memory. I can’t imagine a better tribute to him than that symphony: for Barry, playing Mahler was a spiritual experience. Keep reading...

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 154: Janine Jansen, Stefan Jackiw, Baiba Skride border=0 align=

The Week in Reviews, Op. 154: Janine Jansen, Stefan Jackiw, Baiba Skride

October 24, 2016, 11:55 AM · In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Janine Jansen performed the Sibelius with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Stefan Jackiw performed the Mendelssohn with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

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