Joshua Bell

Barber, Walton: Violin Concertos; Bloch: Baal Shem

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A very light but very lovely disc of mid-twentieth century violin concertos, this 1996 recording by Joshua Bell with David Zinman directing the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra coupling the concertos of Samuel Barber and William Walton along with Baal Shem, the concerto-in-all-but-in-name by Ernest Bloch, may be for younger listeners a first choice among digital recordings. American virtuoso Bell possesses the kind of agile technique, sweet tone, and easy elegance that make him an ideal soloist for these works. His Barber sings, his Bloch wails, and his Walton goes beyond the work's achingly glorious lyricism to its melancholic core. And while the Baltimore Symphony may not be one of the best-known American orchestras, under the astute and alert leadership of Zinman it has both the polish and power to support Bell with style and flair. Some older listeners may recall with fondness Stern's radiant performance of the Barber concerto and Heifetz's mercurial performance of Walton's concerto, but even old timers may concede that Bell's lighter performances are possibly more lovely -- and perhaps just as successful. Decca's digital sound is close and clear, but deep and full.

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