I attended Joshua Bell’s concert in Reading, at the Hexagon, on 17th April. He was soloist as well as concertmaster/conductor of the Academy of St Martin-in-the Fields. It was an all-Beethoven concert.
They began with the Coriolan overture. Right from the impassioned up-bow from the upper strings at the start, we knew this was going to be a cracker of a concert. The cohesion in the orchestra was incredible, full of energy.
Then came the Violin Concerto. Some swapping of seats was required, as Harvey de Souza took Joshua’s place. Bell’s playing on the whole was flawless. I think he played his own cadenzas; I didn’t recognise them. Very imaginative. I do think there was a tiny memory lapse on Bell’s part in the second movement, as at one point he trilled, & didn’t seem to know what to do next, but he recovered really well, & on to the third movement, wihch was taken at a very brisk tempo indeed. I’m used to listening to it played much slower.
After the interval, Bell returned to his place as concertmaster & led the Symphony number 7. Again, the orchestra revealed just why it’s one of this country’s top ensembles. Sensitively played, like a chamber work. Harvey de Souza suffered a broken E string in the middle of the first movement, & had to tiptoe off the stage to replace it.
All in all, an evening extremely well-spent.
There was a beeline to get Bell’s autogrpah after the concert, while the rank & file of the orchestra got into vehicles to take them to their next port of call (Glasgow). I spoke briefly with Harvey backstage; we had met way back in 1989, in India.