Joshua Bell shines in performance with ASO

The Albany Symphony Orchestra’s Saturday night concert at the Palace Theatre had a few surprises tha

The Albany Symphony Orchestra’s Saturday night concert at the Palace Theatre had a few surprises that heightened the glorious offerings violinist Joshua Bell made. There was also a world premiere.

Conductor David Alan Miller welcomed a new celesta into the orchestra by having Starr Norman play Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker” on it with the orchestra. The capacity crowd liked that.

The world premiere of Peter Child’s “Washington Park” ably described Child’s impressions of the Albany park. He orchestrated the three short movements beautifully and used certain rhythmic motifs throughout. But there was something unsettling about the music. There was a lurking undercurrent even in the peaceful sections. The orchestra, however, played well.

The crowd got its money’s worth with Bell. Because of some mix-up with the repertoire, Miller said, Bell offered to play not only the scheduled Bernstein and Mendelssohn pieces but the Saint-Saëns, which is a piece of derring-do. Bell was impressive. He seemed especially into the music, the crowd and the night and offered much knee bending and flying locks.

Sometimes when Bell has performed at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center during the summer, he’s seemed to not always be “there.” But not this night. He began with Saint-Saëns’ “Rondo Capriccioso.” His tone was sweet, his phrases were delicate and gently nuanced and every note was played with an immaculate clarity.

Bell has especially strong control. His bowing is marvelously efficient, and his technique has a brilliantly quicksilver edge that electrifies. A strong rhythmic sense gives it vigor.

In the two songs from Bernstein’s “West Side Story” — “Maria” and “Tonight” — Bell was sensuous and soared.

Later, in the Mendelssohn Concerto, he added intensity and urgency along with his own cadenza in the first movement, in which he used fragments of the melody and expanded them into a brilliant, showy mix.

The orchestra was a marvel of lightness and support. It also performed Strauss’ “Death and Transfiguration” with vitality. After the concert, Bell signed CDs of his latest recording for a huge crowd of fans in the lobby.

Categories: Life and Arts

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