Joshua Bell held his 300-year-old Stradivarius violin, the “Gibson ex-Huberman,” in one hand and his bow in the other and beamed for a small audience at David and Julia Koch’s apartment at 740 Park Avenue on Thursday night. The couple was hosting a recital and cocktail party in honor of the 44-year-old Grammy winner and his new album (with pianist Jeremy Denk) titled “French Impressions”, an occasion that drew the likes of Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Carolina Herrera, Campion Platt, Glenn Close, Gayle King, Muffie Potter Aston and Frédéric de Narp, all attempting to balance their glasses of Dom Pérignon and applaud at the same time.
“What a crowd.…Frankly, I’m a little amazed we made the guest list tonight,” the boyish violinist said. He flicked his hair, now damp with the exertion of his performance of Franck’s “Sonata in A Major,” out of his eyes.
Earlier in the evening, David Koch welcomed his guests in his opulent marble entryway, near a sign toward the elevator that read, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”
“Gee, I was watching Joshua play earlier, and he was really wailing on that violin,” Koch said with a guffaw. “I thought he was going to break it in two, and that thing is worth probably five million dollars!” (Bell later riffed: “Usually, this instrument is worth more than the house I’m playing in. This is the first time that’s definitely not the case.”) The Koch’s duplex was still turned out for the holidays thanks to the efforts of Bronson Van Wyck, who was also present and holding court under a pair of what looked like stuffed white egrets near the dining room.
“We’ve lived here for seven years. It was a heck of a project. We gutted it. It was the Japanese embassy before,” Koch explained near an enormous, elegantly appointed Christmas tree. Revelers sampled caviar, pata negra-topped Southern-style biscuits, smoked-salmon blinis and other fare Koch described as “nibblets,” as waiters circulated with bottles of Champagne. At the top of the curved grand staircase that gently looped around the tree, there was occasionally a glimpse of the giggling faces of one or more of the younger, pajamaed Koch children, who quickly scurried back out of sight when spotted.
“This has to be one of the most beautiful Christmas trees I’ve ever seen,” Barbara Walters murmured.
“I’m most amazed by the white peacock,” Koch went on, “I didn’t know peacocks could be white.”
The tree was festooned with stuffed white birds of varying sizes. The peacock’s tail grazed the marble floor, its head peering over its shoulder pensively.
“Do you like, birds, David?” Walters asked.
“Oh yes,” Koch enthused, “especially pheasants, when we’re shooting.”