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Classical music isn't "a museum piece" for violinist Joshua Bell

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Violin virtuoso Joshua Bell reckons he's only played at the Meadow Brook Music Festival "a couple of times." But he's nevertheless "honored" to be the featured soloist at this week's celebration the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Meadow Brook.

Though Michael Stern of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, who Bell calls "one of my best friends," will be conducting the concert, the violinist has a length association with DSO Music Director Leonard Slatkin that dates back to when Bell was 15 years old, which makes playing with the orchestra that much more special.

"He had chosen me to come on a tour with his St. Louis Symphony at the time, on their first European tour," recalls the Indiana-born Bell, who's now 46. "I was sort of the young, up-and-coming guy, on the tour they also had Isaac Stern and Emmanuel Ax as the other two soloists. But (Slatkin) gave me this great opportunity to do a big chunk of the tour and play a lot, and I made my Carnegie Hall debut just prior to that.

"So (Slatkin) gave me a big boost. I'll always be grateful to him and admire him, and I'm very happy to see all those things he's been doing in Detroit."

Bell has certainly made good on Slatkin's faith during the intervening years. Dubbed the "poet of the violin," he`s recorded more than 40 albums since 1989 and has won a Grammy Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Before My Time," a collaboration with Scarlett Johansson from the documentary "Chasing Ice." He's currently working on a symphonic recording with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, where he's been the music director for the past three years, as well as his own album of Bach -- whose pieces he's recording for the first time ever -- and Mendelssohn with arrangements Bell promises will "raise a few eyebrows."

"My attitude is that classical music is not a museum piece," explains Bell, who will be performing pieces by Stravinsky, Gunka and Kodaly with the DSO. "It's ever-changing. So for the Mendelssohn concerto I wrote my own cadenza, replacing Mendelssohn`s cadenza. You always have to be pushing your boundaries always being interested and discovering. You get burned out -- on anything, really -- when you're not learning anymore, so I'm always looking for things that change the way I think about music."

Joshua Bell with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 24

Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills

Tickets are $25-$100 pavilion, $15 lawn with a $44 lawn four-pack.

Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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