Week in Review: Summer of Change, Op. 8

July 28, 2020, 7:51 AM · There is a theme to this week’s selections, and, in case it doesn’t become obvious, it is "joy." Not unlike the stages of grief, music-making during the pandemic has traversed the emotions of despair, anger, defiance, solace, resignation, and now, we finally arrive at sheer, unadulterated joy. We’ve got a superstar violinist who not only pays tribute to our health care workers, but plays the Bach Double with them. We’ve got a cellist who holds the violin as if it were a cello (and I’m not kidding). We've got a kid quartet guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. We’ve got happy campers of all ages who offer up a virtual camp finale. And, because I simply can’t resist, we’ve got more of the London Mozart Players in yet another stunning venue.

Op 8

Joshua Bell "doubles up" to say thanks

Joshua Bell isn’t just thanking health care workers for their incredible sacrifices during COVID-19. He’s actually playing the first movement of J.S. Bach’s Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins with 10 of them. Mr. Bell is joined by Catherine Lee Chen, Siobhan Deshauer, Abbey Hafen, Grace Lee, Evan Liang, Georgiana Marusca, Liaht Slobodkin, Lori Sykes, Jasper Yung, and Mark Weatherall. (I wish my medical skills were up to these folks’ violin skills. Heck, I wish my violin skills were up to their violin skills.)

Jennifer Pike Plays Vivaldi

Violinist Jennifer Pike joins the London Mozart Players, which continue to move from one interesting venue to the next. For Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, they are in the austere library of Mansfield College, Oxford. Before each "season," Ms. Pike reads the applicable sonnet that is included in Vivaldi’s score. (There is speculation that the sonnets were written by the composer himself.) Ms. Pike also demonstrates that two fingers are more than enough to hold the bow and have it move at lightning speed. The group is led by Simon Blendis. (I’ve cued up the clip for the final movement of Summer, but feel free to scroll back to Spring.)

Possibly the tiniest cello ever

No, that’s not the tiniest cello you’ve ever seen. Cellist (yes, cellist) Jonah Kim has simply found another way to play the violin, giving us Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesleid, with Allegra Chapman at the piano. (There is a clip below of Jonah playing "The Swan" on his real cello. Don’t miss it!)

Possibly the youngest quartet ever

The Stars Aligned Siblings, ages 8 through 13, made an enthusiastic appearance on Gilharmonic on violinist.com with Gil Shaham and Laurie Niles. Violinists Dustin and Valery, violist Colin, and cellist Starla of the Breshears family are nothing if not joyous. As v.com member Maurice Gatewood posted in the online chat, "I’m smiling so hard I think my face broke." (I had the same experience, Maurice!)

Get to know a living composer

You may recall we previously featured violinist Doori Na who discussed his commitment to "learn as much about minority composers as I have about the great European masters and share this knowledge with my audiences." He continues to deliver on that promise. Doori is joined by violist Gioia Gedicks and cellist Frederic Renaud in a simply addictive performance of "Great Day" from Adolphus Hailstork's Three Spirituals for String Trio. (Much has been written of late regarding expanding our violin repertoire to include a more diverse pallet of composers. Please take a minute to click on Dr. Hailstork’s website and note all the music available to us, including three string quartets, one of which includes variations on Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.)

Campers say "Fey-O"

Over 200 campers from 13 countries joined the Mike Block String Camp via Zoom for a week of instruction, activities, and classes. I happen to know there are at least a few v.com members in the group! (And speaking of joy, nothing makes me happier than the fiddling family at 2:42.)

A swan in San Francisco

Recently, a cellist friend thanked me for "letting cellists into the tent" of this weekly roundup. Cellists are more than welcome, especially when they put together as beautiful a performance as this next selection. Cellist Jonah Kim, pianist Allegra Chapman, and ballerina Misa Kuranaga of the San Francisco Ballet perform a touching rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns The Swan at the St. Joseph’s Art Society in San Francisco. (Beautiful playing, beautiful dancing, beautiful venue.)

Summer of change ideas welcome

With large-scale concerts and symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of "summer of change" activities. If you’d like to share links of socially-distanced performances, teaching experiences, camps, or master classes you’ve enjoyed, please do so in the comments or e-mail me for possible inclusion in a later opus.


July 28, 2020 at 08:33 PM · I love the sibling quartet with all my heart! I hope my four sons can achieve this kind of sibling performance someday. Thanks for this joyful collection, brought to us with your signature wit and charm.

July 29, 2020 at 04:46 AM · You know how much I love Bach's Double Concerto because of my experience with it in high school orchestra. To see and hear Joshua Bell's arrangement while at the same time giving thanks to the wonderfully talented health care workers gave me the chills. Thank you Maestro Bell.

The London Mozart Players once again were marvelous as were the Stars Aligned Siblings, not only in their performance, but in the interview afterwards. Liebesleid is one of my favorites. It's on a CD I have of Joshua Bell playing Kreisler that I listen to so often. Did you know that Joshua Bell holds his violin a totally different way than Johan Kim does? The Swan: gorgeous.

This week's topic is joy but it's joy to listen to and read The Week in Review every week! Thank you.

July 29, 2020 at 06:45 AM · Somehow seeing that 4 Seasons performance with mouth masks makes me shiver.

July 29, 2020 at 11:34 AM · Christina: I have no doubt your four sons are up to the task! How brilliant of you to birth your own quartet! Thanks for the lovely comment!

Joe: I'm delighted you enjoyed the roundup! Had to laugh at your "violin hold" reference! I continue to be amazed by the creativity and generosity of so many of our musical artists. Thanks, as always, for your incredibly wonderful comment.

Jean: Oh, Jean, I know. (Were you at least listening to "Winter" at the time?) Thank you for checking out the selections!

July 29, 2020 at 08:23 PM · Stewart Duncan is every fiddle pro's hero..

July 29, 2020 at 09:09 PM · Brent: I can certainly see why! I admit to being a new fan of Mr. Duncan's after watching him on Gilharmonic. Turns out he is one of my absolute favorite guests so far! I'm so glad Laurie and Gil introduced him to people like me, who have clearly been missing out.

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