One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen was Joshua Bell performing live in recital. One year he appeared at U.C. Berkeley’s Cal Performances, and I decided to treat my mom to the event for her birthday.
At first she hesitated to go. “I don’t know anything about classical music,” she said. “I wouldn’t really know what’s going on.”
“You don’t have to know everything about the music to appreciate it,” I replied. “Of course it helps to know some vocab so you know how to talk about what you appreciate in the music, but ultimately what matters is your visceral response to what you’re hearing.”
In the end, despite her trepidation, we went—and as Bell performed in a pool of light on the darkened stage, I glanced sideways at my mother and smiled. She looked mesmerized.
“So what’d you think?” I asked her afterward.
“Oh! Wow,” she responded, shaking her head. “It was like he was making love to that violin.”
This video of Bell performing the third movement (“Presto”) of Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields isn’t much like what transfixed my mama that day, but the intensity of it is, in my opinion, equally amazing.
P.S. Remember the 2007 story of Joshua Bell busking in a D.C. metro that won a Pulitzer for The Washington Post? One key excerpt from the article: “If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that—then what else are we missing?”