After signing teenage violinist Joshua Bell
, Decca didn't waste any time getting him to commit some of his youthful interpretations to disc. Less than a month after recording his 1986 solo debut recital, Presenting Joshua Bell,
he returned to the studio with the ever-popular coupling of the Bruch and Mendelssohn Violin Concertos, included here on this two-disc reissue. Decca was wise to catch the young talent at the onset of his musical maturity, for his performances have just the right spontaneity and freshness to put across these Romantic war-horses. As adept as Bell's technique is in meeting the virtuosic demands of both concertos, it's the sensitive beauty of his singing tone in the slow movements, especially during the quietest passages, that makes these performances truly memorable. And listen to the finale of the Mendelssohn, so carefully phrased and elegant, in contrast to the many soloists who go for velocity alone. Five years later, after recording several more of the Romantic-era standards (the Tchaikovsky and Wieniawski concertos
among them), Bell went back in time to make a Mozart disc, which comprises the second half of this set. Good-natured yet still richly expressive, Mozart's Third and Fifth Violin Concertos are superb showcases for Bell's command of the Classical style, less heart-on-sleeve but still allowing many subtle glimpses of the performer's personality. The soloist's confidence is evident particularly in the cadenzas he composed himself for the Mozart concertos, blending seamlessly with the master's own music. With two shorter charmers filling out the Mozart program -- an Adagio and a Rondo for violin and orchestra -- this is one of the highlights of Bell's early discography, and paired with Bruch and Mendelssohn, it shows the breadth of his talents as well as the depth of his interpretations.