Ten years after his first memorable Michael Palm Series appearance, superstar violinist Joshua Bell brought the 2013-2014 season to a resounding close February 3 in an unforgettable New York City house concert.
A frosty, snowy night could not keep more than 120 standing-room-only Classical Action patrons from the rare opportunity of seeing Bell make his triumphant return in such an exclusive, intimate setting.
Bell’s customary warmth, charismatic charm and profound musicality were keenly on display in his program of Giuseppe Tartini, Ludwig van Beethoven and Igor Stravinsky.
He began with Tartini’s “Devil’s Trill Sonata,” named for the fiendishly difficult trills that occur throughout the piece. Bell played not only with jaw-dropping talent but with a musical clarity that made everyone in the standing-room-only audience realize this was much more than a virtuoso showpiece.
Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 10 in G Major,” the last piano and violin sonata Beethoven wrote and Bell’s favorite of the 10 sonatas, was performed with deeply moving musical insight by Bell and pianist Sam Haywood. The ethereal beauty of the second movement was one of the many musical highlight of the evening.
The program closed with an arrangement for piano and violin by Samuel Dushkin of Stravinsky’s wildly inventive and colorful ballet score, The Fairy’s Kiss.
In a lighter moment, Bell shared a story of being 15 years old and being “stalked” by an artist manager who had seen him play the violin. “I didn’t mind being stalked,” Bell joked, “because no one else was stalking me at the time.” That artist manager was Classical Action’s founding director Charlie Hamlen, who co-founded IMG Artists 30 years ago and ultimately became Bell’s first manager.
The sold-out recital was held in the warmth of Kevin Roon and Simon Yates’ fabulous Tribeca apartment. Roon and Yates are longtime Classical Action supporters and have graciously hosted the last three seasons of the series.
The series is named for Michael Palm, a most generous and enthusiastic supporter of Classical Action who died in 1998. More than anyone else, Palm spearheaded the concept of benefit house concerts, hosting several of them himself at his penthouse apartment 37 floors above Lincoln Center. The sole underwriter of the series is the Michael Palm Foundation, with additional sponsorship from United Airlines and Beaulieu Vineyard.
Photo by Steve J. Sherman