Renowned classical violinist Joshua Bell was only 14 years old in 1982, when he appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Three years later, he made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, launching a career as one of today's best-selling classical recording artists. Joshua Bell's latest release pays tribute to the melodies that first inspired his dream of becoming a musician.
Joshua Bell has always loved a good melody. Digging deep into his vast classical repertoire, Bell chose 13 of his favorite melodies for his album Romance of the Violin. Bell says he didn't limit himself to violin pieces as long as he stayed true to the melody.
"The thing that really strikes home with most people first is just melody, the beauty of melody, and I decided on this album just to concentrate on that," he explains. "So I thought I'd just record the greatest violin melodies. But as I thought about it, I thought why not take this a bit farther and expand the repertoire of the violin and seek out my favorite melodies in all of classical music. So I came up with these 13 of my favorite melodies in all of classical music, one of each from most of the great composers Schubert and Schumann, Mozart, Chopin, and Puccini, so it's got a wide variety of composers but they all have in common just this sheer beauty. It's something a little bit different for me but I think it's something that many people can enjoy."
"Many of these melodies are so timeless and played so much that they have been transcribed before for lots of instruments," he says. "Some of these on this album are completely new in the way they've been used on the violin. For instance, the famous Puccini aria O Mio Babbino Caro which I have on here or Casta Diva from Bellini. I don't believe they've ever been done on the violin. So we have another encore piece for us violinists can play. And it's fun for the audience because we tend to repeat the same slow, beautiful encores of The Meditation. On this album I've included a new piece by Massenet that's not The Meditation. I decided not to include the most popular Massenet piece and included the Elegie by Massenet, which is now my favorite track on the album. It's a very dark and moving piece and this is a new arrangement."
"Every arrangement on this album should be somehow new. A new take on it, even if it's been done before," says Joshua Bell. "The Chopin Nocturne, which is one of my favorites, has been arranged before. Nathan Millstein's is the most common one. But [producer] Craig Leon and I went back to the beginning and started with the piano part. Actually, we were more faithful, in a way, to the original and I think in some ways, hopefully, this is an improvement to the other arrangements. At least an alternative."
On January 12, Joshua Bell will be joined by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for a performance of selections from his new album Romance of the Violin on the television special Live From Lincoln Center.