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On Center: Joshua Bell

by on July 30, 2018 5:00 AM

“Mr. Bell,” writes a New York Times critic, “doesn’t stand in anyone’s shadow.” The Mr. Bell in question is Joshua Bell, the most celebrated and popular violinist of his generation. Bell makes his first Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State appearance in more than seven years when he performs in recital with a pianist October 11 at Eisenhower Auditorium.

A writer for the website New York Classical Review calls Bell a “pretty damn good fiddle player … . His main virtue, an elegant style full of long, singing phrases, never becomes tiresome or out of fashion. He’s simply one of the best there is.”

An exclusive Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 albums in his career as a soloist, a chamber musician, and a conductor. He has earned Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone, and Echo Klassik awards and is the recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize.

Since 2011, Bell has been the music director of London’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. He is the only person to hold that post since Sir Neville Marriner created the British orchestra in 1958.

Bell, who has performed for three U.S. presidents and with the finest orchestras around the globe, has recorded with artists from various genres, including Chris Botti, Kristin Chenoweth, Chick Corea, Jeremy Denk, Plácido Domingo, Gloria Estefan, Renée Fleming, Josh Groban, Steven Isserlis, Alison Krauss, Edgar Meyer, Anoushka Shankar, Regina Spektor, and Sting.

A 14-CD set of Bell’s Sony recording highlights is scheduled for release next month.

The violinist entered the national limelight in the early 1980s when, at age 14, he performed with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

“He’s one of the most imaginative, technically gifted, and altogether extraordinary violinists of our time,” observes a Washington Post reviewer. “… There’s still a sort of elfin quality to his playing. There’s the trademark untucked shirt, the dancing on the balls of his feet, the mop of flying hair. But … there’s also an almost effortless freshness in his playing: It sounds utterly spontaneous, while underpinned with a flawless sense of drama and narrative line.”

Musical America named Bell 2010 Instrumentalist of the Year. In 2004, Billboard selected the violinist as Classical Artist of the Year and his Romance of the Violin Classical Album of the Year.

A native of Indiana, Bell made his Center for the Performing Arts debut in 2007 with St. Martin in the Fields. He returned to Eisenhower for a 2011 recital.

The program for the Penn State concert, along with the name of Bell’s piano accompanist, will be announced at a later date.

Lynn Sidehamer Brown, Elinor C. Lewis, Dotty Rigby, and Kimberly Watkins sponsor the presentation. For tickets or information, go to or phone (814) 863-0255.

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
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