My wife and I attended a wonderful BYU concert last night by the American violinist Joshua Bell. (For those who care about such things, he was playing on the Huberman Stradivarius, which celebrates its 300th birthday this year — and is worth roughly $3,500,000.00. The Huberman has remarkable tone; this was, really, the first time that I think I’ve acutely appreciated the difference a great violin makes.)
The program was chronologically diverse, including Tartini’s Violin Sonata in G minor, op. 1, no. 4 (the “Devil’s Trill Sonata”); Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 10, op. 96; Stravinsky’s Divertimento for Violin and Piano (based on “The Fairy’s Kiss”); and Tchaikovsky’s “Melody”; and concluding with the “Polonaise Brillante,” by Henri Wienawski.
President and Sister Dieter F. Uchtdorf, enthusiastic music fans, were in the audience again, with members of their family. President Uchtdorf thought Bell’s performance was “perfection”; one of the grandsons had seen Bell perform in Frankfurt a while back. But he hadn’t seen this famous, funny, and thought-provoking Youtube video of Joshua Bell in a DC Metro station. Which, if you too haven’t watched it, you should.
Hint: It gave rise to a big and still-ongoing discussion of how much we really appreciate art for its own sake, and how much depends upon its setting and its perceived social status. Joshua Bell playing, recognized by name, in Carnegie Hall? Priceless. Sold out. Joshua Bell playing in a subway station, unidentified, with his violin case open in front of him? Good for a few hurried glances from passersby and maybe a couple of bucks.