For his latest studio release, superstar Joshua Bell revisits one of the classics of the canon, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, and pairs it with the composer’s lesser-known Scottish Fantasy.
“I actually came to the Scottish Fantasy later in life, as far as performing it myself,” said Bell in an interview with Classical MPR. “I grew up listening to it, always loved it and never found a time to learn it and play it. And then I started performing it. I just love this piece. I grew up listening to the Heifetz recording as a kid, and even when I started to learn it myself, I felt I knew every note inside out before I even started learning it.”
Bell will help to inaugurate the annual summer residency of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, when appears as soloist in Bernstein’s Serenade on July 12 at the Ravinia Festival (as part of the festival’s multi-season celebration of the American composer’s centennial).
Bruch wrote such beautiful melodies that “just stick in your mind and take you places,” Bell said. “In the Scottish Fantasy, for instance, even the funerial opening from the winds and brass in this crazy key of E-flat minor — it’s very dark. And the violin enters with this sustained note that emerges out of the fog. I can’t think of a more magical opening of any piece for the violin.”
In his review of Bell’s Bruch disc, released last month on Sony Classical, David Mellor of Classic FM wrote: “Bell obviously takes the Scottish Fantasy very seriously, as he should: it is a piece that has not deserved the neglect into which it has so often fallen. Musically it is every bit the equal of its much better-known companion piece.”
Bell decided to record Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy after performing it for a decade. “After 10 years of playing it in concert, I thought it’s time to do on disc. I feel it very deeply. Every note is meaningful. It is a masterpiece. The two pieces together really make a disc.”
Note: Joshua Bell returns to Ravinia later this summer on Aug. 21 as he re-creates his performance in the film “The Red Violin” (1998), which won a best score Oscar for John Corigliano. The complete film will be projected on screens in the pavilion and on the lawn, as Michael Stern conducts the Chicago Philharmonic.