Joshua Bell made his annual visit to the Granada Theatre last Tuesday, accompanied by pianist Sam Haywood. Playing to a packed house, virtuosos Bell and Haywood initiated the concert with Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Major, played to perfection as Bell showcased his famous full-body playing style. Bow held delicately with two fingers, Bell performed Beethoven’s frantic sonata like a raging sea of passion to Haywood’s effortless unfolding of notes. The duo continued with Brahm’s Scherzo in C Minor, full of drama and excitement and a great encapsulation of the composer’s vigor, and delighted with Sarasate’s Carmen Concert Fantasy, Op. 25, delivering the famous operatic refrain to the audience’s hungry ears.
With applause and standing ovations between each piece, the highlight of the evening was Aaron Jay Kernis’s “Air” for Violin and Piano, commissioned by Bell himself in 1995. The abstract, heartbreakingly beautiful piece is both love song and exploration of intense emotion, and it was a rare treat to hear it performed by Bell and Haywood’s master hands. Santa Barbara is lucky to have such a talent visit the Granada every year, be that on his own or complemented by equally renowned musicians.