For six years, I received the most significant part of my formal musical education at the Liszt Academy.

Sir Georg Solti

Fantasy of a lifetime

31 July 2019

'Liszt Academy is my favourite music hall in the world' – said Joshua Bell at the end of his concert on 25 February 2019. The honourable statement by the Grammy-Winning world-class violinist is perhaps not only due to the Grand Hall’s enchanting ambience, but to the contact he had within minutes with the audience. Joshua Bell allows us to have a peek into the spiritual resonance, the joint thinking, which require a unique approach from the musician, the audience and the composer.

As a performing artist, you are probably 'inseparable' from fantasy. What do you think of this concept in general?

I’ve always been fascinated by fantasy, the amazing mystery that a human being is capable of inventions; an imagination that comes from nothing. I love and respect science because knowledge can determine many things, and certain information can be interconnected. Connecting associations about our knowledge means imagination itself, and fantasy. This incredible fantasy is what impresses me so much about great composers. Our duty as musicians is to bring the notes to life. As each person has a different fantasy, their interpretation of music differs as well. This is great, as this way, people will come to concerts again and again. What makes an exceptional musician is that he does not only perform what he has learnt and practised, but he adds his own fantasy, thus the audience feels the sense of fantasy and storytelling during a performance.



Joshua Bell. Photo: Liszt Academy/ István Fazekas
Location: Corinthia Hotel Budapest


In your career, it is an eternal task for you to let fantasy free. Do you think there is a limit to the use of fantasy, if so, where could you draw the line of fantasy in your own art?

Fantasy and reality are very much linked together, as our imagination is also made of specific rules. If you tell a child to write a story freely, we will probably get something less exciting than if we tell them that every tenth word must rhyme and include certain words. So if you give some concrete guidelines, the result will be more interesting, rules don’t destroy, but strengthen fantasy. I think the concrete rules make the music exciting and I find it particularly interesting to see what the composer does with these rules. If all rules were disregarded, music would have no tonality, like in avant-garde music.


Talking about childhood, how do you see things now, have you kept your childhood fantasy? Do you consider it important to preserve childhood dreams?

Absolutely! Childhood fantasy is a great gift. Children like to draw and write anything, their imagination is limitless, and we should inspire them to be more to this. However, most schools teach them how to memorize facts. Although quantitative knowledge is indispensable, they lose their innocent imagination at the same time. As musicians, we are encouraged to remain children in some ways, the result of which is that many artists tend to behave immaturely. Preserving infantile soul does not only mean behaviour but also approach: children’s brains are more open, they always want to learn and be amused by the world. As artists, it is also our mission to explore more and more the reality around us.


Joshua Bell. Photo: Liszt Academy/ István Fazekas
Location: Corinthia Hotel Budapest


Your career is full of imaginative ideas, I am thinking of the 'The Man with the Violin' project, the film music contributions, the VR recording by Sam Haywood, and many more creative cooperation. Do such projects that exceed the classical music genre cross your career on purpose or by accident?

Both statements are true at the same time. As I mentioned before, I am interested in science, especially in technology, and I am always looking for novelties, and others notice it too. This is why Sony Play-Station reached out to me when they wanted to do their first classical VR recording. Probably many artists would have said no, but I enjoy these challenges that are a small part of my career, but a large part of my personality gets expressed in them. A physicist friend of mine organizes the New York Science Festival (World Science Festival – the editor), so I also participated in this festival. I played Bach and Ysaÿe so I could represent music at a science festival. There are artists who keep themselves away from such causes and it doesn’t mean that they are not open. A musician can spend his whole life studying Beethoven’s Sonatas; the important thing is that everyone follows their interest.


Musicians’ interests are also diverse, the same instrument often plays differently in the hands of different performers. How much is this difference influenced by the fantasies of the two different artists?

Playing an instrument reflects so many things like technique, different schools or different teachers. Here as everywhere else, it all starts in your brain, even before you put your bow on the instrument. I see when someone picks up the violin, how the sound is going to be different from the way I imagined. It is similar to composers, the same sforzando means a totally different approach by Schubert and Bartók, so different musical interpretations are strongly connected to the artists’ imagination.


Joshua Bell. Photo: Liszt Academy/ István Fazekas
Location: Corinthia Hotel Budapest


If you let your imagination fly and think deeply: how could you grasp the depth of 'Joshua Bell’s fantasy world', the fulfilment of your personality?

I spend most of my time travelling and meeting people, the most meaningful for me is when I meet people who really care about me. Last year for example on my birthday everybody came from all over the world, musicians, family, friends and people close to me. We ate good food, played good music and that was enough for me. If I am surrounded by people with whom I can truly be myself, this is where my personality and thus my fantasy is fulfilled.


Anna Unger