Existing fans of violinist Joshua Bell are already well-acquainted with the broad scope of repertoire and performance abilities ranging deftly from the classical concerto repertoire to his well-known collaborations with Edgar Meyer
. For those unfamiliar with Bell's recorded works, this two-disc set of The Essential Joshua Bell
provides quite a comprehensive overview of his wide-ranging talents. Of course, it could also be argued that if one movement of a concerto is "essential," so too should be the rest of the movements. Some of the single-movement works on the album, such as the Paganini
variations or the Sarasate
"Introduction and Tarantella," work well on compilation albums such as this because they don't leave the listener with an incomplete picture of what the composer had intended. With larger works such as the concertos of Goldmark, Mendelssohn
, or Beethoven
, hearing only single movements doesn't do full justice to either the composer nor to Bell's performances. This anthology also surprisingly lacks Bell's recording of the Tchaikovsky
concerto, perhaps one of his most energetic and innovative performances of a standard repertoire concerto. So if you're really not sure if you like Bell's playing or his choice of repertoire, this is certainly an enjoyable introduction. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and invest in the complete albums from which this collection was made.