Joshua Bell at Carnegie Hall

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 | All Things, Music

Pre-concert shopping event at The Conran Shop — all decked out for the holiday season. MarieBelle Chocolates and 10 Cane Rum concoctions added to the festive feel in the air.

Conran Shop

10 Cane Rum

A quick stop at the adjacent Bridgemarket — the cathedral-like space beneath the Queensboro Bridge adorned with a canopy of Guastavino tile vaults — so named for Barcelona architect Rafael Guastavino, who pioneered the adaptation of a centuries-old building technology in which long flat tiles are laid and mortared together with a special mixture of cement and sand. Guastavino vaults can be found in several impressive interiors, including the eponymous Guastavino’s restaurant, the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal, the U.S. Customs House and the Registry Room at Ellis Island.


And then to Carnegie Hall to see Joshua Bell, who would be performing the Brahms Violin Concerto that night. The ride on the crosstown bus was typically interminable, but we arrived with spare minutes to scarf down our dinner wraps in a vestibule across the street.

Carnegie Hall

From our seats in the Dress Circle:

Dress Circle

The concert began with Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 and the New York premiere of Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina’s Feast During a Plague — a work co-commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (the latter of which was performing tonight.) SYB made a new friend with his droll commentary on the immense ensemble, and its large arsenal of percussion.

In his introduction, Sir Andrew Davis — no relation to conductor Sir Colin Davis — described the piece as “cataclysmic,” with its horn fanfares, growling brass, shrill bells and wailing strings. About halfway through the piece, a pre-recorded sound was introduced; a startled murmur rippled through the Carnegie Hall audience as the speakers blasted a completely unexpected techno beat — as if a convertible full of rowdy clubgoers had rolled in through the middle of the performance, blaring their tunes, stopping briefly before driving on. The beats reappeared in short bursts a number of times, as the orchestra continued on its path, before ultimately wrestling the rude intruder into submission.

After the intermission, the evening’s highlight: Josh Bell, performing one of the most important and technically demanding works in the violin repertoire. The Carnegie Hall program notes explained how Brahms, being a pianist and not a violinist, consulted his friend, violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim on the score in progress, asking him to “mark those parts which are difficult, awkward, or impossible to play.” (Ultimately, though, Brahms ignored some of Joachim’s suggestions for simplifying the violin part.)

Bell entered the stage like a rock star — clad all in black, with an open fronted shirt — and attacked the piece with great dexterity and passion. Always a joy to see and hear.

There are 2 Comments ... Joshua Bell at Carnegie Hall

December 20, 2006

I really liked the links to the tile info. Totally sent me off into this architecture tangent.

December 20, 2006

Glad you enjoyed.  Did you happen across Guastavino’s connection to Asheville and to the Biltmore Estate?

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