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Culture: CD REVIEWS: Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - Joshua Bell, Berlin Philharmonic, Tilson Thomas (SONY Classical SH 94829) pounds 12.99 HH HHH.

Byline: Review by Christopher Morley

The young American violinist Joshua Bell has been a much-admired visitor to Symphony Hall over many years, and he has already built up an impressive discography.

Now he adds one of the world's most popular concertos for his instrument, the Tchaikovsky, to that list and brings to it all his customary commitment, musicianship and unostentatious command of technique.

It's regrettably easy to listen to this uneven piece on auto-pilot, but not here. Right from the soloist's early entry (Mendelssohn was probably the first to do this in a violin concerto) Bell's aristocratic, well-sprung sound, tensile and beautifully tuned, commands attention.

Interpretatively there are probably still more riches here that Bell will mine in the future, but as an example of wonderful playing this account rates very highly - as in the first movement's cadenza, teasingly subtle, bowing eventually buzzing with energy.

Bell lingers meditatively in the plaintive Canzonetta before a finale where the Russian feel is intensified by dancing filigree from the renowned Berlin Philharmonic under Michael Tilson Thomas.

Not all of the contribution from this world-beating ensemble is as welcome: there is occasionally a sense of 'muscling in' on the soloist, of overblown accompanying.

But there are also some lovely things, too, including, in the finale, a melting oboe solo which might well be played by ex-CBSO favourite Jonathan Kelly, who left Birmingham to follow Sir Simon Rattle to Berlin.

There is an immediate, horrible and raucous 'bravo!' at the end (it is very difficult to find anything on the cover that warns us this is a live recording). As fillers on this well-engineered disc (CD and SACD-compatible) Bell gives us the Canzonetta-like Meditation, and the Danse Russe from Act III of Swan Lake
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 4, 2005
Previous Article:Culture: Charming flutes and sweet violins.
Next Article:Culture: CD REVIEWS: Mendelssohn: Complete organ works, Volumes 1 & 2 - Jennifer Bate (Somm SOMMCD 050/051) pounds 11.99.

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