It’s not all music 24/7 for violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. A famed connoisseur of gustatory delights, he recently co-hosted a dinner party with the Champagne house Krug at his Manhattan home. Throughout the evening, he performed violin pieces that were linked thematically to the food and Champagne pairings.
Along with occasionally deviating from standard performance practices, he displays a sense of humor, as his Chicago fans well know (Bell returns to Orchestra Hall for a SCP Chamber Music Series recital Oct. 30). Here are some sound bites from a few recent interviews.
On his artistic partnership with longtime accompanist, British pianist Sam Haywood:
“I was introduced to him by one of my best friends and chamber music partners, Steven Isserlis, the cellist. When you start reading a piece together, you get a sense of someone’s basic philosophy of music without saying a word. You realize the other person’s approach, how they express themselves, the kind of restraint they show, all those things,” Bell said in an interview with the Arizona Republic. “So it just felt right, felt very comfortable. And then of course touring together, that’s a whole other thing, because it’s nice to find someone that’s easy to travel with and isn’t high maintenance and getting on your nerves and asking for just the brown M&Ms in his dressing room.”
On his favorite party mix — musical, that is:
“It varies. It depends on the ambience. I mean, I love jazz because, for me, if I listen to classical music, it’s too part of my world, I’m too involved,” Bell told Gotham Magazine. “So jazz for me is the same level of quality and complexity, but it occupies a different part of my brain. For a dinner party, Ella Fitzgerald is my sort of go-to; you can’t go wrong with her.”
Why he doesn’t mix spirits with performance:
“One particular time I got up and people said, ‘Come on, play something!’ I rarely get over-the-top drunk; I just had happened to have too much wine and I could barely feel my fingers,” Bell said in the Gotham Magazine interview. “It’s the only time I’ve played drunk and it was not a pretty sight. I mean, some people didn’t know the difference, but I was actually a little embarrassed. That is why I don’t drink before I play.”
How he selects his concert attire:
“The most comfortable thing would be to wear a T-shirt and tattered jeans, but of course I don’t want to go out in that,” Bell said in a feature published in the 2014 winter edition of Symphony magazine. “The last few years, I’ve been wearing a tucked-in shirt with a vest. A vest kind of keeps it a little neater. I prefer black shirts because white shirts can look grimy. Also, white on black can make [you] look a little like a waiter.”
When actor Paul Newman paid him a backstage visit at Carnegie Hall:
“One of my last memories of Paul Newman was of him coming to one of my concerts there. There’s always a line of old friends at my dressing room after the show, and [Newman] was so humble, he was waiting at the back of the line,” Bell said in an interview with the New York Post. “A friend had brought [someone] who was in my dressing room playing the piano quite loudly. I remember Paul Newman saying, ‘Who’s that playing the piano?’ It [turned out to be] the famous bald DJ, [pop-music star] Moby.”