Violinist Bell: Yankee Doodle for Obamas was dandy

Wed Mar 25, 2009 2:28pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - There's nothing quite like seeing American violinist Joshua Bell play "Yankee Doodle Dandy" on his 1713 Stradivarius while tapping his foot like a fiddler at a barn dance.

Bell, 41, performed the song adopted by rebels during the American Revolution, and arranged for violin in the 1840s by Belgian composer Vieuxtemps, as an encore recently in London, evoking a knowing laugh from the losers.

He played it again in Budapest last week but in February he almost had goosebumps when he performed it with President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle in the front row at the refurbished Ford's Theater in Washington for a Lincoln's Birthday gala.

"I got a big thrill meeting the president -- more than I had even expected. And his wife too. They're a classy couple."

Bell spoke to Reuters in his dressing room after rehearsing Tchaikovsky's violin concerto for the Budapest Spring Festival's sold-out opening night (Eds: March 20).

"Classy" also is a good word to describe Bell, who has the build of a tennis player and is the only son of a Jewish mother and Christian father, both psychologists from the U.S. Midwest.

He burst onto the scene from his home state of Indiana in his teens. With a solid grounding from the music school at Indiana University, where he now teaches, he has become a leading light in the competitive world of violin virtuosos.

Each virtuoso has a distinctive style and sound which must be heard to be appreciated, but if words help, here are Bell's:   Continued...