Standing room only at Joshua Bell’s return to the Metro

Standing room only at Joshua Bell’s return to the Metro


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2014

Last time at L’Enfant Plaza, the violinist made $32 and change as commuters passed him unnoticed. Today, the event was pre-announced.

Look what happened.

joshua bell metro





photo: David Srebnik


  • Crass promotion for his Bach CD released today. Has he no shame?

    • OhGlorioso says:

      Why? He’s getting to lots of people there and the PR is great. People listening to Bach played by an excellent violinist. And they’ll buy it perhaps and listen to more. Such snobbery as you and Milka are the problem. Certainly not Mr. Bell.

  • milka says:

    It’s not shame that is lacking ,it is
    the dignity and self respect for himself as a human being that he seems to
    have lost . Fools coming to see a man make a fool of himself.I have a dog that
    has more dignity .

    • Fabio Luisi says:

      Why? He is bringing music to the people. And he promotes his CD. Wouldn’t you promote a product made by yourself?
      If only one of those “fools” goes to one of Joshua’s concerts or buy his Bach-CD, this would be a win for classical music.
      And about dignity: Falstaff: “L’onore? Ladri!”

      • John Borstlap says:

        Amen to that…. And the point is, that Bach is heard. And that all the so-called barriers to classical music merely exist in people’s imagination. All great music is accessible.

      • William Safford says:

        I agree!

        There is honor in busking.

        I still remember arriving at Grand Central Terminal (in NYC), on my way to a gig with my bassoon in one hand, my tux draped over my other arm. I walked past a violinist busker. After I passed him, I heard behind me the strains of the opening to the Mozart Bassoon Concerto! My head snapped back, and I saw a huge grin on his face. We had a nice conversation. He had recently played a freelance gig with a chamber orchestra that played the concerto.

    • Nick says:

      In any commentary about a serious artist, it would be highly unusual to find the terms “(lack of) dignity” “(lack of) self-respect” and “fool”, let alone in just two short sentences. Then to add, “I have a dog that has more dignity” drags the comment right in to the gutter. It is hugely offensive.

  • Jules says:

    The first time Joshua Bell did this, it was unannounced, and very few people stopped. Then the story broke, and went viral ad nauseum. This time, it was announced and well publicized, on the eve of his new CD getting released. What began as a noble experiment became a publicity stunt. And he4357 still only made $32.

  • milka says:

    I would have expected a slightly more insightful response from Mr. Luisi
    being that it is his field of endevour .

    The violinist is not bringing music to the people ,he is hustling for a buck and all the publicity he can get.
    Nothing wrong in that .
    It’s the cheap pathetic way its done ,
    following on the heels of his last
    fiascoe as an “unknown” fiddler sawing away his Bach with few people
    noticing. That he is now at the same
    subway station sawing away before a
    appreciative crowd reminds one of
    how Russian and Chinese governments round up people to show
    their appreciation of the leaders .
    Is this a paid for crowd artfully managed or are they fools willing
    to become shills to satisfy an ego trip.

    I believe it was the dreadful 3 tenors who circulated the thought while making their millions that if we only reached “one” to go to the opera it is a win for classical music ; I was at one
    of those great moments when the “one” multiplied by hundreds attended
    an opera performance and to their dismay learned that the fat tenor who always carried what seemed to me a table cloth ,(was he a failed waiter ? )
    was to appear only once and no Nessun Dorma at that ,they left in droves …you could have driven a truck through the orchestra without hitting anyone .It’s a house Mr. Luisi is quite familiar with .So much for the
    converts schtick.
    As for L’onore?Ladri, it seems that
    the person on which Falstaff is
    loosely based lost all honour and was
    hanged .There is a theory that Elizabeth 1wanted comic a play about
    a fat knight who had no honour and was a fool and so Falstaff was born .
    I suppose if one were to have a tomb stone it is better to read in the stone here lies an
    honourable man than here lies a fool .

    • Nick says:

      No-one will be at all surprised at such a typical response from Milka! Always the first to rant and rave whilst others make reasonable and responsible replies. And when she is criticised (I assume from the name Milka she is of the feminine gender), her only resort is to lash out with childishly pathetic comments about her critics. She has nothing positive to contribute, whatsoever. Oh! Apart from an expression of admiration for Jessye Norman. And all this negativity from someone who professes to have “been in the ‘arts’ field for many years.” (See her post of Sept. 30 at 11:45 pm in the thread FABIO LUISI ON MAESTROS, MADNESS AND SUDDEN EXITS – Sept24).

      With her vitriol against Joshua Bell, she has reached a new low. She also not surprisingly gets her facts wrong. The “last fiasco” in 2007 was part of a social experiment organised by The Washington Post – not Joshua Bell or his manager. Then he posed as an ordinary busker and the experiment was to find out how much interest he might attract and how much cash would end up in his violin case. The resultant article won author Gene Weingarten a Pulitzer Prize. But then explaining that would not have fitted Milka’s “fiasco” scenario about it’s being just an out-and-out PR stunt.

      Comparing that to his more recent event is like comparing chalk and cheese. But Milka is not content with demeaning Joshua Bell. She compares those who turned out for his appearance to those forced to turn out for Chinese and Russian leaders! What? Not for North Korean leaders?

      So a publicity event becomes “an ego trip” to this lady who has “been in the ‘arts’ for many years.” What about Milka’s admired diva, Jessye Norman? Presumably she regards her singing of the French National Anthem on the top of a truck parading down the Champs Elysees in 1989 just another “ego trip”. But then of course, that event was on a much larger Three Tenors scale!

    • William Safford says:

      Milka, really??

  • Milka says:

    Mr. Safford , yes there is honour
    in the true busker , read the Washington Post coverage of this
    cheap event .All carefully staged
    to offset the first humiliating outing .
    The interesting comments that if the
    passers by at the first embarrassing outing had known it was Mr. Bell
    they would have stopped to listen,
    otherwise the unknown busker wasn’t worth the time of day .Mr. Bell’s
    comment on the organized applause that greeted
    him second time round tells us a lot
    about Mr. Bell .

    • William Safford says:

      I did read the Washington Post article. Just for fun, I just re-read the article from the original event.

      I don’t care if the Union Station concert was a promotional stunt. I bet it was a fun stunt!

      As one commenter to the recent Washington Post article wrote about this performance: “I wish Union Station would have regular noontime classical or jazz concerts in the main hall like this.” I hope Metro higher-up is paying attention.

      But you still haven’t justified your invective. So, again: really?

    • Nick says:

      Still going on about the first “humiliating outing”. It was nothing of the sort! But of course Milka has to repeat her utter nonsense purely to justify her false “fiasco” scenario.