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Originally published Friday, June 29, 2012 at 5:32 AM

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Joshua Bell tops list of notables at Bellingham Festival of Music

Some noteworthy names, including violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist Jeremy Denk, will be featured in the Bellingham Festival of Music July 6-21, 2012.

Special to The Seattle Times

FESTIVAL PREVIEW

Bellingham Festival of Music

July 6-21 in three venues in Bellingham; $20-$59 (360-650-6146, boxoffice@wwu.edu or www.bellinghamfestival.org).
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It's always hard to predict Northwest weather, but somehow we think things are going to be very hot in Bellingham next month. That is when the Bellingham Festival of Music gets into gear, with an artist roster that includes some noteworthy names: violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist Jeremy Denk among them.

Of course, this festival — founded in 1993, and successfully run except for a year's hiatus in 2007 — has featured famous instrumentalists and singers in the past. The great pianists Garrick Ohlsson and Alicia de Larrocha have appeared there, as have singers Frederica von Stade and Heidi Grant Murphy, and violinist Sarah Chang. There's no denying, however, the considerable star wattage generated by Joshua Bell, an undisputed master who enjoys rock-star status in the classical firmament.

It was Bell who made headlines around the world in 2007 when he played his Stradivarius incognito, busking at a subway station in Washington, D.C., during rush-hour traffic on a chilly January morning. Almost entirely ignored, Bell — whose concerts routinely command ticket prices upward of $100 a seat — made $32.17 in 43 minutes of playing unaccompanied Bach and other masterworks. (For The Washington Post story and some video clips, visit www.washingtonpost.com and search for "Joshua Bell" and "Gene Weingarten.")

Bell's summer also includes stops at a hefty array of top international festivals: Tanglewood, Aspen, Ravinia, Verbier, Salzburg, Saratoga and Mostly Mozart, as well as the Hollywood Bowl. Among his many award-winning recordings is one of the Barber Concerto, the work he will play with conductor Michael Palmer and the Bellingham Festival Orchestra in the July 9 concert in Bellingham's Mt. Baker Theatre.

Bell has toured and recorded with the pianist Jeremy Denk, who was first introduced to Seattle by the Seattle Chamber Music Society's Summer Festival, where he appears this month. Denk, who writes a highly entertaining blog ("Think Denk," at www.jeremydenk.net/blog/), also will return to the Bellingham Festival this summer on July 6; he is featured this time in the opening all-Mozart concert, playing the Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major (famous from the inclusion of its middle movement in the soundtrack of a 1967 Swedish film, "Elvira Madigan").

The program takes place in the Western Washington University Performing Arts Center, with Palmer and the Festival Orchestra (who will follow the concerto with Mozart's 41st and last symphony, the mighty "Jupiter").

Another great player steps forward July 14, when cellist Lynn Harrell plays the Elgar Concerto with Palmer and the orchestra, in a concert that also includes Mozart's Symphony No. 39.

More Mozart is on tap for the rest of the festival, too, particularly the July 21 finale. That one includes another in the great triumvirate of the last three symphonies (No. 40), and the Mass in C Minor ("The Great"). The soloists' roster for the latter has soprano Maria Valdes, mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford, tenor Paul Johnson, and baritone Charles Robert Stephens. (Stephens was recently heard in the Seattle Symphony/Dale Chihuly production of Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle.")

The concert lineup also offers a chamber-music program, and a guitar recital by Pablo Sáinz Villegas, both in the Atrium of the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

Melinda Bargreen also reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM. She can be reached at mbargreen@aol.com.

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