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Joshua Bell’s Dancing video has just gone online, but he hardly appears in it

You can just about hear Joshua Bell play Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons amid the audience racket of Dancing With the Stars, but you see very little of him amid the rather dull floor show – and what you hear sounds pretty horrible.

Any argument that this appearance is nobly intended to draw new audiences to classical music stops, precisely, here:

As one who respects Bell’s artistry and his thoughtful approach to the role of a soloist in the 21st century, I am inclined to believe that what you see above is a serious misjudgement. It may, on the other hand, be part of a greater plan.

Mark Swed, in a critical review of his LA performance last week with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, notes the list of his achievements: ‘ Bell’s bio in the program book notes that “millions of people” are likely to know him from his appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “Tavis Smiley,” “Charlie Rose” or “CBS Sunday Morning,” “Sesame Street” and a People magazine spread of the 50 most beautiful people. ‘

Maybe Dancing is part of a greater plan after all

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Comments

  1. Victor says:

    Non-specialized TV channels have a nice tradition to create horrible shows about classical music. For example, they have recently produced a show in Russia, where pop singers were supposed to sing opera arias. The weird part was that it all started out with proper arias from mostly Italian and Russian repertoire, then they turned to operettas and it ended with Broadway songs and something even more distant from the initial idea. The worst part was that there were professional opera singers in the jury from Bolshoi and Mariinsky, and they were very enthusiastic about what were happening.

  2. That’s show biz. Yuck!

  3. Poor Mr. Bell seems not to have gotten over his sadly ignored subway appearance and is determined
    to be the Bocelli of the violin world . The playing here is atrocious and the dancing pathetic and adds
    up to American show biz at its worst but hey ! the yahoos will love it and the $$$$$ will flow .
    It was all done better by Nigel Kennedy years ago who has more pizzaz than Mr. Bell with all his
    dramatic weaving about .

  4. This is the kind of post that reminds me why classical music is so marginalized in our society. The elitism and snobbery of some classical music listeners are so sickening that I sometimes wonder whether I’ll be like that after some years. I guess it’s a good thing that Bell was the one who converted me to a violinphile; I can’t become one of the audience-hating crowd as long as I still listen to him.

    Oh by the way, I don’t think the playing here is ‘pretty horrible’; it sounds fine to my ears. But of course, with only 8 years of classical music listening experience, I guess I’m not sufficiently musically informed to know. But hey, if I think this sounds pretty good, won’t many first-time listeners think so too?

    • Read who will love it – and also think on why it is fine to be an elitist in sports , but when it comes to the
      arts ,it is in your terms sickening ….. it means the best- by the same token if one goes to a basket ball
      game for the first time and knows no better than to applaud the second rate one will be quickly corrected
      as to who are the elitist players . (best). a term sports writers often use to describe players . Mr. Lebrecht is
      being kind in his reference to this goings on by Mr. Bell.

      • First, when I said elitism, I did not refer to the musicians. I was talking about the ‘I’m the elite of the society, and you are not, so you should not listen to MY music’ way of thinking (which appears to be exactly what you were thinking when you wrote ‘read who will love it’).

        And back to what you said: I do watch a lot of sports, but comparing music to sports? I doubt many classical ‘elitists’ would be happy to hear that. Besides, how can something so multi-dimensional, so diverse as music be reduced to a scale from the ‘worst’ to the ‘best’? Even professional sports are not like that. And ma’am, if you really go to a basketball game and applaud for some one other than your so-called ‘best’, it’s likely that no one will ‘correct’ you. Sports fans, it seems, are more able to appreciate personal taste than many classical music listeners.

        • First one must forgive the players in this nonsense – they are out to make a living and will
          lend themselves to anything of this type to pay the rent and put bread on the table,sadly they have no
          choice -unless they abandon the art for some other way to make a living . I guarantee you not one started
          the study of the instrument dreaming they would end up playing this sort of travesty ., whereas Mr. Bell
          is secure enough that he does not have to lower standards to please the masses while at the same time
          pillage a masterpiece of beautiful music in making it a circus stunt to suit the yahoos. Your first paragraph
          while it may please Janey reflects ignorance especially when interpreting or trying to interpret what
          you assume I was thinking and trying to make it fit your premise concerning the word “elitist “. May I
          suggest you listen to the work on the tube and hear it for what a beautiful work it is – many other famous
          violinists have recorded it and you may yet learn how truly good it is without the circus atmosphere .
          You might like to learn that Ariel is not necessarily feminine.

    • Bravo, CW. The cynicism does grate after a while.

  5. Rafael says:

    Mr. Bell is in a position to make choices. This, regardless of the advise by those around him, was his choice.

    I felt ashamed watching and listening to this. I have often argued on Mr. Bell’s behalf when his artistic priorities where the subject of discussion. Until now, I believed that his choices were carefully orchestrated to walk a fine line between reaching a wider audience, while still remaining a credible artists and interpreter among those of us who deeply care for the art form.

    After this dreadful spectacle, it is clear that he is fully seduced by kitch and banality without respect for his art. I feel a great sense of loss. This was a definitive moment for him in my eyes. Now, I believe he lacks the character to say no when a project crosses the line and thus, he undoubtedly will fail to win the battle with what Vladimir Nabokov called “Poshlost”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poshlost).

    The real loss to the art form is that he was positioned to be champion of serious music among larger audiences. After this, he simply is a willing puppet of purely commercial interests.

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