Violinist Joshua Bell: 'French Impressions,' Yesterday And Today

Joshua Bell revisits the classic Violin Sonata by Cesar Franck on his new album.

Joshua Bell revisits the classic Violin Sonata by Cesar Franck on his new album. Lisa Marie Mazzucco hide caption

itoggle caption Lisa Marie Mazzucco

When Joshua Bell was 21, he recorded an iconic piece of chamber music for piano and violin — the Sonata in A major by Cesar Franck. Today, Bell is 44 and he's recorded it again. It's on his new album, French Impressions, with pianist Jeremy Denk.

All Things Considered host Robert Siegel invited Bell to listen to his old recording for a little session of compare-and-contrast.

"Do you hear the same violinist?" Siegel asks, after playing for Bell the opening bars of his 1989 recording.

"It's not as bad as I thought it was," Bell says. "But then my next impression is, I could have done a lot more here in this harmony, and I could have followed some of the instructions in the score a little bit better."

In other words, Bell hears major differences in his playing some 22 years ago.

"This music is very subtle. There are so many beautiful harmonies that, if you indulged in every one, you'd lose the scope," he says. "And yet some of the beauty of French music is that there are moments that you don't think about the overall structure and you enjoy the beauty of that moment."

Compare Joshua Bell: Yesterday And Today

Joshua Bell.

Joshua Bell. Decca hide caption

itoggle caption Decca

Franck: Violin Sonata - Allegretto ben moderato

  • Artist: Joshua Bell
  • Album: Chausson: Concert; Ravel: Piano Trio; Fauré, Debussy, Franck: Violin Sonatas
  • Song: Sonata for violin & piano in A major, M. 8 [1. Allegretto ben moderato]

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Song
Sonata for violin & piano in A major, M. 8 [1. Allegretto ben moderato]
Album
Chausson: Concert; Ravel: Piano Trio; Fauré, Debussy, Franck: Violin Sonatas
Artist
Joshua Bell
Label
Decca
Released
2005

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Joshua Bell.

Joshua Bell. Sony Classical hide caption

itoggle caption Sony Classical

Franck: Violin Sonata - Allegretto ben moderato

  • Artist: Joshua Bell
  • Album: French Impressions
  • Song: Sonata for violin & piano in A major, M. 8 [Allegretto ben moderato]

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Sonata for violin & piano in A major, M. 8 [Allegretto ben moderato]
Album
French Impressions
Artist
Joshua Bell
Label
Sony Classical
Released
2012

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

What's the relationship like between Bell and a piece like the Franck Sonata, which he's continued to play for several decades?

"I'm still the same basic human being," he says, "but I feel I know the piece so much better. I've internalized it so much more — the way it's paced. Hopefully, I'm bringing out much more nuance and more color and things I've discovered in the piece since. You're a constant student, as a musician."

Purchase Featured Music

French Impressions

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
French Impressions
Artist
Joshua Bell
Label
Sony Classical
Released
2012

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Chausson: Concert; Ravel: Piano Trio; Fauré, Debussy, Franck: Violin Sonatas

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Chausson: Concert; Ravel: Piano Trio; Fauré, Debussy, Franck: Violin Sonatas
Artist
Joshua Bell
Label
Decca
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

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