Joshua Bell must have in his attic a painting of himself looking old and playing out of tune. We were convinced the picture on his website were all softly lenses and careful airbrush. But no, we were five rows from him yesterday at Davies Symphony hall, and other than a deal with the devil, how else to explain his real youthful looks, his hair flowing just right, his footwear so pretty it had to be Italian, and his technical perfection with his Stradivarius? He first appeared with the symphony in 1991, he's forty three, he can't be a heartthrob for ever.
He was playing Bruch's violin concerto; and despite his charismatic, passionate performance (see yourself), the concerto did not bring us as much joy. See, the concert opened at the top of the ninth inning with Wagner's Prelude of Act I of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Giants down 2-4. So of course we found LA Opera music director James Conlon's conducting pompous and heavy, despite his expertise of Wagner garnering rave reviews for the LA Ring earlier this year. Conlon could not rekindle the magic Mark Wigglesworth conjured two years ago in the same piece (which we will probably hear again next year during the 100th anniversary celebrations of the orchestra, it was the first piece performed by the SF Symphony. Ever).