Miles Campbell: The power of an ensemble
When describing a violin, there are many words, adjectives, nouns, and other phrases that come to mind; vigorous, sharp, pronounced, spacious, and dynamic, among others. And there are just as many words to describe the music, as well as the violinists themselves — agile, athletic, bold, and even outgoing.
The legendary violinist Joshua Bell can easily encompass all of these words, plus a whole lot more. Bell, who performed for a packed house Oct. 18 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Grass Valley, was warmly welcomed and lauded by everyone who attended.
Ken Hardin, the artistic director of InConcert Sierra (who presented the concert), stated that “Bell has been on this organization’s wish list for as long as I can recall.”
And considering that Bell has played at venues ranging from New York’s Central Park with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to the Chicago Symphony Center with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ken (along with the rest of InConcert Sierra) has more than enough reasons to be excited that “he’s here!” as Ken said in the official program.
Anyway, the concert itself was definitely a sight to be seen.
Accompanied by pianist Sam Haywood, Bell gracefully played through Tomaso A. Vitali’s “Chaconne for Violin and Piano in G Minor,” which was followed by Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major,” which is otherwise known as “Kreutzer.”
The former composer, Vitali, is best known for the “Chaconne” that Bell played, so it was nice to hear someone with such a prestigious sound as Joshua Bell (along with Mr. Haywood) to bring out the best notes from the signature piece of one of the more forgotten composers of classical music.
After an intermission, Bell and Haywood played Gabriel Faure’s “Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in A Major,” followed by two pieces that Bell had personally picked out for the occasion.
It was around this time that I (along with the rest of the audience) discovered that Bell had picked out the pieces for the program as a dedication to what would have been the 106th birthday of one of his former instructors.
Before the concert, I, along with a host of younger attendees, had gotten to meet Mr. Joshua Bell himself in a room behind the sanctuary and ask him a few questions about his upbringing, why he chose the violin, and some other related questions.
When it came time for me to ask one, I asked Mr. Bell the following: “What advice do you have for people who want to start playing a nontraditional instrument, like say, an organ or a violin?”
Naturally, I got a rather satisfactory answer, and from that, I got a quote “always follow your dreams.”
Though I initially found the question rather strange at first (especially considering the recent resurgence of the violin thanks to the likes of Lindsay Sterling), listening to Bell and Haywood serenade the audience that afternoon made me realize not only the usefulness of the question I asked, but also the importance of Joshua’s answer.
At a young age, and after plenty of dreaming and what I imagine was plenty of consideration by his parents and those close to him, Bell got his first violin.
He followed that dream for years, and little by little he was able to work his way up to the prestigious title he holds today (as well as acquire an antique Stradivarius violin made in 1713).
The concert that Joshua and Sam performed at was definitely memorable in many respects, but I personally think that the real treasure on that day was the sense of encouragement that could be felt throughout the Seventh Day Adventist sanctuary — as if the pieces (and the instruments) seemed to say “just keep going …”
Miles Campbell is a composer who currently resides in Grass Valley.
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