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The final concert of the Masterworks Series at The San Diego Symphony started with Smetana’s overture to The Bartered Bride. This was the most satisfying piece in the concert. The energy in the orchestra was good and the music itself was engaging.

The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto followed with superstar soloist Joshua Bell. When the music ended Mr. Bell received a standing ovation and actual cheers. It sounded a bit like a sporting event in Symphony Hall which was appropriate because the Tchaikovsky concerto is an athletic endeavor for the soloist.

While Mr. Bell’s playing was worthy of accolades I was surprised to hear him play out of tune more than once in the first movement. There were also some passages in the solo line that were less than clearly articulated--that is to say they were muddied.

The second and third movements were much better. However, the violin concerto is much like Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in that the first movement has the big theme.

Perhaps I was expecting too much from Joshua Bell but there was nothing that stood out to make this a world class performance. It was a fine performance but it was not the musical revelation I was expecting.

However, the orchestra was brilliant in the Tchaikovsky. I enjoyed the rhythmic rigor with which the brass section accompanied the “big theme”.


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