One of the hottest young celebrities of the classical music world - violinist Joshua Bell - will join the Utah Symphony in Abravanel Hall Friday and Saturday, Feb. 20 and 21.

Bell, who became an international sensation at the age of 14, will play Saint-Saens' Concerto No. 3 for Violin. In addition, the orchestra, under the direction of acting associate conductor Bruce Hangen, will perform Rossini's Overture to Semiramide and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.The transition from child prodigy to mature artist is often a difficult one, and many gifted young musicians never live up to their early promise. No such difficulties have beset Joshua Bell. The talented performer has survived his early reputation as a teen heartthrob and is now thought of by many as the preeminent violinist of his generation.

Salt Lake City audiences will hear Bell shortly after having heard another young star of the violin world, Pamela Frank, who happens to be a close friend of Bell's. In a 1995 interview in the New York Times, Frank had this to say about Bell:

"What I'm always amazed by is how old-fashioned he sounds for such a young man. The way he uses sliding as an expressive tool, it really sounds like one of the old guys whom we all revere. You always know you're going to get an expressive performance, and you always know that you're going to feel touched."

Bell attributes his unique sound to his teacher, Josef Gingold, a direct descendent of the Romantic violin tradition of Europe. In addition to his concept of tonal color, Bell feels that Gingold passed on to him a unique concept of vibrato and of musical line.

Interestingly, Gingold also taught Joseph Silverstein, music director of the Utah Symphony and, of course, another renowned violinist.

Bell owns and plays a 1732 Stradivarius known as the "Tom Taylor," which he has been using in performances since 1991. The violin is from the late period of Stradivari's output and has a darker sound than most of the master violinmaker's instruments, a sound that suits its owner's romantic inclinations perfectly.

Prior to that, during his rise to fame, Bell owned an unusual guitar-shaped Strad, which he subsequently sold in order to purchase the "Tom Taylor."

Amazingly, Bell has found time in his life for many interests beyond the violin. He loves sports and was a state tennis champ (in Indiana) at the age of ten. He recently took up golf, which he plays with the same intensity that he applies to music. And he also has a strong interest in computers. Still, music occupies most of his time.

Performances with the world's leading orchestras and sessions in the recording studio are a part of life for Bell, who has released 13 recordings on the London/Decca and Sony Classical labels.

He recently premiered two major works written especially for him - a violin concerto by Nicholas Maw, and Air for Violin and Piano by Aaron Jay Kernis.

Another project is his involvement as artistic consultant for "The Red Violin," a motion picture featuring an original score by John Corigliano. The film and its soundtrack are due for release in spring 1998.

Violinist Joshua Bell will join the Utah Symphony in concert on Friday and Saturday, February 20 and 21, at 8 p.m. in Abravanel Hall. Tickets are priced from $12 to $31 and may be purchased by phoning 801-533-8863, or the Utah Symphony box office, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City. The concerts are sponsored by the Marriner S. Eccles Foundation.