Bell collaborated with The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields for this recording, after serving as director of the ensemble for the past five or six years.
"I've gotten to know the orchestra well. They really are all great chamber music players. They play with lots of energy and commitment. It's not just a job for them," said Bell.
One of the first things I noticed about this recording is how expressive these performers play these works. In the first movement of "Spring," for example, the tempo is robust, and there's a broad dynamic range.
"It is very expressive music," Bell explained. "Expression in music didn't start with the Romantic era. I don't really use very much vibrato, I don't think. I don't worry too much about trying to be 100 percent stylistic, the way it would have been done in Vivaldi's time. There's no way for me to really know that. But I find it just very expressive, very powerful music."
Another thing that sets this recording apart is the inventive performance by harpsichordist John Constable. His clever style adds that extra panache.
"He, I think, brings a lot to the recording, and the harpsichord part is very important," Bell said. "Vivaldi lays out a very bare harpsichord part, and the keyboard part really was meant to fill in a lot of the blanks. That's why every recording will be very different."
"He, I think, just brought a lot of humor to it, cheeky improvisation that really makes it a lot of fun. I was very pleased with what he did," said Bell.
Vivaldi also leaves a lot of room for improvisation for the violin soloist, especially in the slow movements. Joshua Bell takes a few liberties with the music, but not as much as might have been heard in the composer's day.
"It's possible in Vivaldi's time they did even more," Bell explained. "I did right up to my comfort level. One can over-ornament too. It's like wearing too much jewelry -- you can kind of distract from the beauty that's underneath. It's really a judgment for each musician to find the right balance of ornamentation, and let the beauty of the piece shine through."
Joshua Bell closes out this recording with Giuseppe Tartini's g minor sonata, known as the "Devil's Trill" sonata. Tartini claimed the devil came to him in a dream playing the trills heard in the sonata.
Bell has an interesting connection to this piece. He plays a Stradivarius violin that was made in 1713, the year Tartini's piece was written.
"I can't say that because I have a violin made that same year that it makes me automatically qualified to play the piece, but it's certainly in the back of my mind," Bell said.
He adds that Tartini's music is still challenging for violinists even today.
"He took the trill, which is that little turn on the note, which we all know is used sparingly in most pieces as an ornament, and in this case he just took it to the extreme," said Bell, "putting them on every other note and playing in certain places, and playing other things at the same time, so it sounds like two violins playing at the same time.
"This is all very inventive stuff," Bell continued. "I don't know of any other piece written before 'The Devil's Trill' that used it to that extent."
Joshua Bell and The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields have gone beyond making just one more version of what may be the most recorded set of concertos in history. Their performance is very personal. You can hear the special connection between soloist and ensemble.
The emotions feel stronger, and there's a sense of playfulness that sweeps up the listener and pulls us right into the drama and the fun of "The Four Seasons."