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Joshua Bell's New 'Romance'

CD cover of 'Romance of the Violin' from Joshua Bell
CD cover of 'Romance of the Violin' from Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell plays a Stradivarius violin built in 1713 that's been stolen a few times in its storied past. On his latest CD, the young virtuoso has stolen a few great classical melodies -- from other instruments -- and transposed them for violin. He recently discussed the results with NPR's Liane Hansen.

Bell describes the CD, Romance of the Violin, as his "desert island top ten" of classical melodies. The eminently hummable track listing includes familiar refrains from Mozart, Chopin, Debussy... and even from a Puccini opera.

"Anything written for the voice works really well because the violin is such a vocal instrument," Bell says. "The violin sings."

While his arrangements have ruffled a few feathers, Bell respectfully points to the early 20th century transcribing tradition of violinists Jascha Haifitz and Fritz Kreisler. He also cites a personal desire to stir up what he sees as a rigid "hands off" status quo in modern interpretations of the classical music repertoire.

As for that stolen fiddle: it was once snatched backstage at Carnegie Hall and remained missing for 50 years. Only a deathbed confession by the thief revealed the instrument's true pedigree.

These days, Joshua Bell keeps a very close eye on his slippery Stradivarius.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.