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Who is Joshua Bell?

American violinist Joshua Bell has been an enduring presence on the concert stage and in the recording studio. But just exactly who is he, and why is he one of the world’s great players? Here’s a brief guide to the man and his music-making.

Who is Joshua Bell?

How old is Joshua Bell?

At the time of writing Joshua Bell is 53 years old. He was born in December 1967 in the town of Bloomington, Indiana.


How long has Joshua Bell been playing the violin?

Bell was just four years old when he first picked up a violin. Ten years later he made his concert debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Riccardo Muti. That means Bell will soon celebrate four decades on the concert stage.

Does Joshua Bell play a Stradivarius violin?

Yes he does! It’s a ‘Gibson, Huberman’ Stradivarius, made in 1713 by the great violin maker. Bell has been playing it since 2001 and before him it was played by Norbert Brainin (of the Amadeus Quartet) and the Israeli violinist Bronislaw Huberman. Poor Huberman lost the instrument twice, firstly (and briefly) in 1916 in Vienna, and a second time in 1936. The second time, it was stolen from his Carnegie Hall dressing room and didn’t resurface for 50 years! Suffice to say it was a bit grubby and in need of attention.

Does Joshua Bell conduct?       

Yes he does. He’s a multi-talented chap is Joshua Bell. Aside from playing the violin rather brilliantly, he is also the music director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, one of London’s top ensembles. He took on the role in 2011 from Neville Mariner, who had founded the ensemble. Bell recorded with them earlier in his career.

Has Joshua Bell played on any film scores?

He has, and a few times. He performed on John Corigliano’s 1998 Oscar-winning score for The Red Violin (indeed, he reunited with the film in 2018 for live performances). In 2002 he worked with the late composer James Horner on the score for Iris, shortly followed by a very memorable turn in Nigel Hess’s 2004 score for Ladies in Lavender. Then in 2008 Bell worked with James Newton Howard on his score for Defiance, swiftly followed by Angels & Demons with Hans Zimmer in 2009.

Didn’t Joshua Bell once pretend to be a busker or something?

Right again! Bell went undercover on the Washington DC Metro, performing dazzling solos to passers by. It was a fascinating experiment in public perceptions of classical music, performance, and how context really matters. The experiment formed the basis of a Pulitzer Prize-winning article in the Washington Post.

What are some of Joshua Bell’s best recordings?

Bell has a huge catalogue of recordings. And it’s no wonder, since he signed his first recording contract – with Decca – aged 18. Here are some highlights…

The Essential Joshua Bell (Sony Classical)

The Best of Joshua Bell – The Decca Years (Decca)

French Impressions – with Jeremy Denk (piano) (Sony Classical)

Bruch, Mendelssoh, Mozart – Violin Concertos (Decca)

Scottish Fantasy (Sony Classical)


Ladies in Lavender – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony Classical)