Saratoga Springs

Joshua Bell, Larisa Martinez to bring ‘Voice and the Violin’ program to SPAC

Husband and wife violinist Joshua Bell and soprano Larisa Martinez. (photo provided)
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Husband and wife violinist Joshua Bell and soprano Larisa Martinez. (photo provided)

During their “honeymoon at home” while in lockdown, violin virtuoso Joshua Bell and soprano Larisa Martinez created a new kind of repertoire, combining their talents in a way that hasn’t quite been done before.

Called “Voice and the Violin,” the couple will perform the program with the Philadelphia Orchestra on Friday.

“Generally, the violin plays the role of the voice,” Bell said. Finding music where the two could play off of each other was a challenge.

However, hunkered down in their Mount Kisco, New York, home, they had the time to look.

“Since we were really the only available chamber music partners during this time, we were able to work on that together,” Bell said.

The program includes works by Mendelssohn and Chopin, as well as a medley from Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”

“This kind of concert is just a celebration of music in a relaxed and fun way. It’s a kind of program that is unique. There will have never been this combination of music all together like this before because it’s so eclectic; [we] go from Chopin’s Nocturne to . . . Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ to her singing an aria,” Bell said.

It has also given them the chance to tour together, a first for the couple. The two met by chance more than a decade ago at a jazz club in New York City, where trumpet player and mutual friend Chris Botti was performing during a holiday residency.

“He does several weeks of concerts that time of year, and I chose that night, which turned out to be the right night to choose because Larissa also came,” Bell said.

Martinez was on vacation from Puerto Rico. The two met backstage and hit it off. After dating for several years, they got married in October of 2019.

“Then we couldn’t even have a honeymoon because I happen to have my Carnegie Hall debut that week, like four days after our wedding. Then Josh was traveling all over the place. So we couldn’t really do much. And then the pandemic hit and we got our honeymoon at home,” Martinez said.

“[It] was really the perfect honeymoon because we both travel so much. Going on a trip somewhere is not exactly that desirable when you’re traveling 200 days in a year,” Bell said.

“It did have a silver lining,” Martinez added.

When they weren’t enjoying time at home, they worked through projects that had been on the back burner for years, including “Voice and the Violin.” The pair have been on tour with the program for the last few months.

Performing at SPAC has a lot of meaning for them both.

“There are a lot of connections for me to Saratoga for years and years,” Bell said.

He first visited SPAC at 12 years old, on a field trip when he was attending the Meadowmount School of Music in Westport.

“Little did I know, that two years after that, I would be making my professional debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Philadelphia with Ricardo Muti. So the Philadelphia Orchestra also holds a special place in my heart, because I made my professional debut with them as a 14-year-old,” Bell said. “On top of all of that, one of my closest friends is Michael Stern, who’s a wonderful conductor and the son of an idol of mine, Isaac Stern . . . he’s now conducting the concert. [There are] a whole bunch of things that are meaningful to me all at once.”

For Martinez, Friday’s concert marks her debut at SPAC.

“I’ve come there as an audience [member] but I’ve never actually performed there before. So it’s really exciting for me to be a part of the action now after coming all these years,” Martinez said.

“Voice and the Violin”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center
TICKETS: Starting at $35
MORE INFO: spac.org

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Saratoga Springs

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