Top critical review
Joshua Bell should be angry....
on September 2, 2002
...extremely angry with London/Decca engineers for making his 1713 Strad ("Gibson ex Huberman") sound like it was made of plastic. The recorded sound of his instrument is about 2 steps beyond an Edison cylinder. The performance sounds like he was put into an isolation booth with a lapel mic.
Although condsidering the total lack of resonance and depth from the G string, one could assume the engineers used two mics and combined the sound out-of-phase to render a dead-center mono signal with the lower tones scattered into oblivion. There is no evidence at any moment that he is in the same room with the orchestra. There are two distinct and radically different acoustical environments mixed together. Mixed, not blended.
Overall, the recording is exceedingly harsh with red-hot frequencies between 2k and 9K. The Barber is one of the warmest pieces in the repertoire and here it sounds cold and cruel. The recording of the orchestra doesn't fare much better with the initial Timp forte overloading the system and distorting. The sound doesn't improve until the last movement of the Walton when, for the first time, there is some slight hall resonance associated with the violin.
What the heck were these guys thinking?
Bell is noted for the poetic musicality of his performances; an outstanding American artist. His artistry is not well served here. This recording is a despicable mess.
If you can hear through the technical slop, then enjoy Bell's artistry, but my ear was stopped cold. Very cold.