Voice of the Violin (Bonus Version)
Young English virtuoso Joshua Bell attempts an intriguing gambit here: Arrange and translate a slate of classical songs, arias and wordless pieces originally written for the human voice as a showcase for his expressive gifts on solo violin. While it's clearly intended to trade on the commercial success of Bell's previous Romance of the Violin anthology, the repertoire choices and execution here frequently transcend any concerns about the sequelitis that likely inspired them. With the exception of a notable duet with pianist Frederic Chiu on Debussy's "Beau Soir," Bell's playing is cast against orchestral arrangements that subtly reinforce or contrast his rich, emotionally-charged touch. Bell swoops, soars and flutters through a slate of material that includes expected crowd-pleasers like "Ave Maria" and "Carmina Burana," yet one ultimately characterized by a compelling eclecticism. The virtuoso's affection for his instrument is not sacrosanct however, as his standout duet with popular contemporary soprano Anna Netrebko on Strauss' "Morgen!" attests, a rewarding performance that ultimately underscores the collection's titular conceit.