Joshua Bell: "Everything's Just Right"

Joshua Bell
Joshua Bell
Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Go ahead and clap between movements if you want to. Violinist Joshua Bell says he doesn't mind. Of course, this is a guy who has twice played in Washington D.C.'s Union Station, so he's not your usual classical music purist. (The first time he played in Union Station was in 2007, Bell was incognito and none of the rush-hour commuters recognized him or his playing. The second time, earlier this year, Bell's appearance was announced and throngs of fans crowded into the station.)

Bell says he isn't bothered when audience members clap between movements (a serious faux pas in the classical music world), but he's less forgiving about fans who jump in at the end of a solemn piece to begin clapping. "That I do mind," he told us recently, speaking in a phone interview from his home in New York. "Sometimes there needs to be a beat after the last note, a little time to let it hang in the air."

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Bell, who appears in recital here on November 5, with pianist Alessio Bax thanks to the Society for the Performing Arts, performs a program of sonatas for violin and piano by Schubert, Grieg and Prokofiev (other works may be announced from the stage).

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He recently released Bach, an all-Bach recording created with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. (Bell is music director of the orchestra.) Bach is a favorite of Bell's, and the album, which has been getting rave reviews, is his first recording of the Baroque composer's music. What took Bell so long? "I wanted to wait until I had something new to say," he tells us.

We asked Bell if he was in a sweet-spot in his career. No longer the boy-wonder with enormous pressure to prove he could live up to the hype around him, but not yet an elder statesman of classical music who would soon step aside to let other stars emerge.

"I don't want to say that this is a sweet spot in my career because that would seem to say that there are going to be un-sweet spots coming up," he told us laughing. "And I hope there are lots more sweet spots coming, but, yes, this is a sort of middle ground. It's not a time to relax, but it is comfortable. Everything's just right and I'm enjoying it."

Bell and Bax perform at 8 p.m. November 5 at the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713‑227‑4772 or visit spahouston.org. $28 to $103.

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