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Review – PSO and Joshua Bell

j bellI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra knows how to put on a good show. A great show. And last night’s performance was the perfect example of impeccable, incredible artistry from every musician on the stage.

The night started with Eduard Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole with a major assist by violinist Joshua Bell. To say that Mr. Bell played amazingly is to say that the sun is hot. It’s sort of obvious, it’s sort of a given, and it totally misses the entire point of such pureΒ force.

And make no mistake. Joshua Bell is a force. With his 300 year old Stradivarius, he played so exceptionally that for a moment, I almost forgot how demanding Lalo’s huge five movement symphony actually is. He just made it look so easy. But then he would, with a sweep of his bow and nimble flicks of his fingers, produce an arrangement of sound so mind-blowing you just blink and sit back and go, whoa.

But I must confess, I actually preferred the music of the second half of the night more than Lalo’s. Perhaps it was the story behind it.Β Liszt’s A Faust Symphony is based on Goethe’s literary work about a man who may or may not be the devil and the people he loves. Guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda expertly and expressively led the orchestra through the hour-long piece. The music was rich, lavish, beautifully expressive. The colors of the piece just seemed so much bolder to me than the ones in Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole. But both pieces were sublime and the orchestra deserved every clap and standing O.

All in all, another wonderful night with about 75 of my favorite people. It doesn’t seem possible, but every time I watch the PSO perform, it gets better and better. Maybe it’s the conductor, maybe it’s the music. I have a feeling they’re able to play so well because the audience so totally adores them.

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