Joshua Bell is no stranger to a challenge, and a challenge he has certainly had to face over the past week. After German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter cancelled the remainder of her North American tour, Bell was asked to take her place on the Hill Auditorium stage. Tonight, Bell and the Trondheim Soloists will wow the audience with a program featuring Vivaldi”s “The Four Seasons.”

Paul Wong
Classical music has never looked so good as Joshua Bell visits Hill Auditorium.<br><br>Courtesy of UMS

Bell, a native of Bloomington, Ind., has spent most of his life taming the violin. His talent was evident early on: By age 12, he was already studying under legendary violinist Josef Gingold. He made his orchestral debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra and soon after he was playing in such venues as Carnegie Hall. Now 33, Bell has performed with some of the world”s leading orchestras and recorded an impressive 25 albums.

In addition to his heavy touring, Bell has also undertaken a number of side projects that have garnered him considerable praise. He kicked off the 2001-02 season with a performance in Central Park which was recorded for a PBS “Great Performance” television special. Also this year, Bell composed his own cadenzas for a recording of Leonard Bernstein”s “West Side Story” suite. Early next year, he will team up with two orchestras which have been recently featured in Ann Arbor: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Camerata Salzburg.

A particularly ambitious project of Bell”s includes his recording of the soundtrack to “The Red Violin.” Composed by John Corigliano, the music won the Academy Award for Best Score in 2000. The film follows the journey of a superbly crafted red violin around the globe from Vienna to Oxford, to Shanghai and Montreal. Given the international scope of the film, Bell”s music not only reflects native musical styles of each location, but also the changes in violin repertoire over time. Additionally, Bell was also given the roles of violin coach, body double and cameo actor for the movie. The film”s director, Franois Girard, claims that Bell “gave us the most sensitive and intelligent playing you could imagine a dream.”

Similarly enthusiastic about Bell are the Trondheim Soloists, a Norwegian ensemble of 18 musicians who will be joining him on stage. Specializing in performing the works of Norwegian composers, the Soloists also pride themselves on their numerous recordings of “The Four Seasons.” Bjarne Fiskum, the group”s founder and artistic director, is particularly fond of this piece. “I think Vivaldi is very good for the public,” he said. “His playing is very modern it”s very robust and exciting.”

In their short history, the Soloists have embarked on dozens of international tours and recorded a number of critically-acclaimed albums, including the works of Grieg and Shostakovich. Fiskum begins teaching his students at the age of 14 and works with them over a period of about eight years. While most of the members of Trondheim are professional musicians, some are still students, ranging from age 20 to 30.

Tonight”s program, in addition to “The Four Seasons,” includes Grieg”s “Two Nordic Melodies,” Bjorklund”s “Sarek” and Kilar”s “Orawa.”

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