If the number of online photos depicting a young violinist next to smiling, modestly dressed girls is any indication of classical music stardom, Joshua Bell is off the charts. One could argue, too, that the admiration from students of an art that requires hours of practice a day is more meaningful than that of the screeching hordes whose daddies pay thousands of dollars for a concert with Disney's idol du jour. At the Arsht Center's Knight Concert Hall this Saturday, not only would it take a concerted effort to drop a cool grand, but also any attendee will need to possess the talent of sitting still for a half-hour.
All hype aside, Joshua Bell is the genuine article. His patent expressiveness never hurts his work. Even while raging through a fast-paced passage of Beethoven, for example, Bell displays a keen understanding of the music, making certain each note is paid proper attention. Camille Saint-Saëns's Concerto No. 3 for Violin and Orchestra, while leaving lots of room for the soloist to shine, is dynamic and colorful enough to allow for an appreciation of the New World Symphony's many strengths.
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The baton this evening is in the hand of the great Vladimir Ashkenazy, a combined six-time Grammy winner as a pianist and conductor. Symphony No. 1, "Titan," by Gustav Mahler, with its thunderous final movement, complements this orchestra, which likes nothing better than to let its hair down. With any luck, nature will get in the spirit and bring a storm over downtown Miami to complete the mood of this dark grand finale.