By John Fleming
Joshua Bell considers the violin first and foremost "a singing instrument,'' and that tends to influence the recital programs he puts together.
Thus, the program he's playing on tour this winter, with a stop Saturday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall, includes the Brahms Sonata No. 2, the Schubert Fantasy in C major and the Grieg Sonata No. 2.
"One thing in common through all these pieces is sheer beauty of melody,'' Bell says. "I'm a sucker for great melodies.''
Bell has a new pianist for this tour, Sam Haywood. For the previous seven years or so, the violinist played recitals mostly with Jeremy Denk, whose own career has blossomed to the point that it was hard for him and Bell to coordinate their schedules. Bell and Denk do have a CD of French sonatas by Franck, Saint-Saens and Ravel scheduled to come out in June on the Sony Classical label.
With some 40 recordings on his resume, 43-year-old Bell is the fortunate classical artist who continues to have his music available on disc in a tumultuous time for the industry. Part of his success comes from mixing things up from one recording to the next. In 2009, he had success with At Home With Friends, which featured him playing with pop musicians such as Sting, Chris Botti, Regina Spektor and Josh Groban.
"I wouldn't want to be invested in the record business,'' Bell says. "It's really hard to know where it's going. The thing is, people are still consuming music. But how they're getting it is changing. When you go to these chains in the malls and all you can find is Vivaldi's Four Seasons and the Three Tenors in the classical section, it is discouraging. The good news is that you can find anything on the Internet.''