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[Herald Interview] Joshua Bell to perform Vieuxtemps, Chausson with SPO

The American violinist returns to Korea for SPO debut

By Park Ga-young

Published : May 10, 2023 - 12:16

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American violinist Joshua Bell (SPO) American violinist Joshua Bell (SPO)

Renowned American violinist Joshua Bell will make his debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra with two very special "old fashioned violin pieces" as he returns to Korea in May for the first time in five years to meet his favorite audience in the world.

The 55-year-old chose Vieuxtemps’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor, Op. 37, a piece not frequently performed over the past 40 years, he explained in an email interview with The Korea Herald.

Chausson’s Poeme for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 25, is one of the most beautiful pieces written for the violin and orchestra, he said, which he grew up loving very much. He also has a personal connection to the piece as his teacher Joseph Gingold was a student of Eugene Ysaye to whom this piece is dedicated.

Bell notes that he frequently visited Korea because of his love for the audiences, food and his friends here.

“(When asked about) my favorite audiences, I always put Korea at the top of the list because of the enthusiasm for music and also the young people that come to the concerts and the general feeling of playing music in Korea is always very, very special,” he added.

At a music camp when he was 11 years old, Bell met Korean cellist Park Sang-min, who was the same age. He also met Chung Kyung-wha, who was visiting the camp to put on a concert as a camp alumnus. Bell will go back to the camp for the first time in 25 years this year to play Paganini for the children, just as Chung did.

The violinist also mentioned his violin heroes and hinted at what he thinks makes a great musician.

He said his teacher Gingold is his musical parent and that Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Khrysler and Nathan Milstein are his heroes.

“These are names that maybe today, the young kids don't know as well, but it was a very special generation of musicians that each had a very unique voice and that was very inspiring for me to hear,” he said, adding that today we have many great players and competition winners who play more perfectly than anyone ever before.

“But if I had to complain about today's generation ... maybe people sound a little bit more the same to each other than they did 80, 100 years ago. I think maybe because of recordings or I don't know what it is," Bell noted, adding that he wanted to find his own unique voice.

Sharing his experience of learning a lot by performing chamber music, he emphasized the importance of being a well-rounded musician and cautioned against making the mistake of pursuing a musical career solely for fame or star status.

The first-ever collaboration of Bell and the SPO will take place on May 18 and 19 at the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall, conducted by German conductor Markus Stenz. For the second part of the concert, Stenz and the orchestra will perform Debussy’s Prelude a l'Apres-Midi d'un Faune, L. 86 and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps.

Ticket prices range from 10,000 won to 120,000 won.

Poster for the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra's concerts on May 18 and 19 featuring conductor Markus Stenz and violinist Joshua Bell. (SPO) Poster for the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra's concerts on May 18 and 19 featuring conductor Markus Stenz and violinist Joshua Bell. (SPO)