I spoke with Joshua Bell earlier today. While a full article will be up on the homepage later this week, I thought I’d share a bit of our conversation as it pertained to recently departed composer Nicholas Maw.
Bell received a Grammy Award for his 1999 recording of Maw’s Violin Concerto. During our conversation, he mentioned how important the piece was to him, and that he wished that he was able to program it more.
“It’s a huge piece, and very challenging, so it’s not something I can just brush up quickly. I need a couple of weeks of steady practice time to get it back in shape.”
“When I was recording the Maw concerto, it was at a point in my career when I wasn’t as comfortable as I am today working with a composer to make sure that the passage work in the piece is as idiomatic and playable as possible. Maw wasn’t a violinist, and sometimes the choices he made have limited the amount of performers willing to face down the concerto’s challenges.”
“A piece I premiered later on, John Corigliano’s Red Violin, has subsequently been taken up by a number of violinists. By that time, I was more comfortable suggesting a few changes to a composer to make things work well.”
“Of course, another programming challenge facing the Maw concerto is that it’s quite a long piece; he was a gifted composer who had a lot to say.”