Violin Concerto in D, Op.61
Pulcinella – Suite
Joshua Bell (violin)
New York Philharmonic
Jaap van Zweden
Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski
Reviewed: 26 November, 2021
Venue: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
Alice Tully Hall was packed for an appearance by Joshua Bell. And there was no disappointment; the concert was well-executed from beginning to end.
First up was an almost chamber-like performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in which Bell’s polished sound blended most agreeably with the ensemble. Jaap van Zweden led a tautly-paced opening Allegro, with the Philharmonic strings sounding fervent. After a long and impressive cadenza written by the soloist, the orchestra re-entered tranquilly, but closed out the movement with urgency. The central Larghetto was delicate and noble with wonderfully pure tone from Bell. The Finale, during which the soloist was at his most virtuosic, again playing a cadenza of his own, was especially intimate and exquisitely performed.
After intermission came Duo Ye (1985), a concise (seven-minute) but highly varied work by Chinese-American Chen Yi based on her piano piece of the same name. Inspired by a folk-song and -dance performance the composer witnessed in a south China village, it is a fusion of traditional Chinese and Western music, with a mostly fast-paced, percussive and rhythmically vibrant score that is constantly chugging forward. The Philharmonic players delivered an energetic account of this inventive and vibrant composition.
The last item on the playbill was the Pulcinella Suite. Drawn from Stravinksy’s music for his 1920 commedia dell’arte-inspired ballet, it received a delightful performance that effectively conveyed the colorful spirit of the music – offering lovely solo work from concertmaster Frank Huang; bright, airy playing by the featured string quintet; sparkling contributions from the woodwinds, most notably flutist Alison Fierst.