The Academy of St Martins in the Fields under the direction of one of the most celebrated musicians of his era the multi award winning American born violinist Joshua Bell, is arguably one of England’s finest touring and recording chamber ensembles, which was created in 1967 to perform ‘from quintets to octets and other configurations’.
He will lead Academy musicians on a three state visit to Australia visiting Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in April 2017. They are offering two programs in each state: showcasing the bountiful nature and beauty of music of the Baroque and Romantic eras.
Established in 1958 by the late Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016), the orchestra takes its name from the once medieval church of St Martin-in-the-Fields on the northeast corner of Trafalgar Square in London, where the Academy gave its first performance.
The current building, the Parish church of the Royal family with its portico that sports a pediment supported by a giant order of Corinthian columns has a tower with a spire rising 192 feet above the floor.
Scottish born architect James Gibbs integrated it unusually into its design and constructed 1722 – 1726 the sacred space has become renowned for its splendid acoustic.
Selected as music director, the first since Marriner, Joshua Bell performs on a 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin. He also uses a late 18th century French bow by François Tourt and was selected by the musicians to be their director in 2011. His reputation for excellence and virtuoso playing goes before him.
Having received his first violin at age four, Joshua Bell who was born in Bloomington, Indiana, is today regarded as a musician’s musician. He began studying with Josef Gingold at Indiana University when he was 12 and now serves as a senior lecturer at its Jacobs School of Music. At the age of 14 Bell began his rise to stardom, performing with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Making his Carnegie Hall debut at 17, he also toured Europe for the first time.
From Torino in Italy, to Vienna in Austria, from Moscow in Russia to St Petersburg, his multi-faceted musical interests are well known. He has had more than 40 CD’s, produced since he began recording age 18, cover much of the major violin repertoire. He collaborates with artists from all disciplines to produce ground breaking recordings, including the world of film. Having been inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of fame in 2005 it is without doubt his incognito performance in a Washington, DC subway station in 2007 that made Joshua Bell a huge hit on social media, inspiring a Pulitzer Prize winning story for Gene Weingarten at the Washington Post.
At Melbourne – Melbourne Recital Centre
Concert 1: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is iconic and Joshua Bell’s performance of it, renowned. Acknowledged as a pinnacle of the Romantic repertoire, it is all about vibrancy and power showcasing Bell as soloist and the string section of the orchestra.
A pair of postcard works by German composer Felix Mendelssohn will provide contrast: a wave-tossed voyage to a Scottish sea-cave and a sunny picture from Italy – both revealing the virtuoso talents of orchestra members. Felix Mendelssohn The Hebrides, Op.26, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Op.35, Robert Schumann Violin Concerto: Second Movement, Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No.4 in A, Op.90 ‘Italian’
Concert 2: – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s dramatic Symphony No.25 is one of his earliest symphonic masterpieces. Featuring in a similarly dramatic Fourth Violin Concerto, Joshua Bell will provide a bravura display of swagger and elegance while the Third Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven will be sure to please with its revolution in sound and explosion of heroic determination and unbridled joy without equal. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Symphony No.25 in G minor, K.183 and Violin Concerto No.4 in D, K218, Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No.3 in E-flat, Op.55 ‘Eroica’.
At Sydney – Opera House
Concert 1: Joshua Bell performing without a conductor – he prefers to play concertos without one. The program includes Felix Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture Op.26 Fingal’s Cave, Robert Schumann: Violin Concerto, 2nd movement, with Benjamin Britten codetta (Strings only) and Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major Italian
They surround as a high point, Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major Op.35
Concert 2: Designed to ensure patrons are kept sitting on the edge of their seats with the brilliance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 25 in G minor and Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major followed by the brilliance of Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E flat major Op.55 Eroica
At Brisbane – Concert Hall, QPAC
Concert 1: Felix Mendelssohn The Hebrides, Op.26, Symphony No.4 in A, Op.90 Italian, with the highlight Joshua Bell’s solo Max Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op.26 a masterwork that will showcase the second slow movement of Robert Schumann’s brilliant violin concerto, a lyrical showcase for Bell and the Academy’s strings
Concert 2: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.25 a theatrical high point, showcasing one of his earliest symphonic masterpieces. The dramatic Fourth Violin Concerto with soloist Joshua Bell. And the Eroica, the third symphony of the genius Ludwig Van Beethoven, one of humanity’s greatest works of art.
Goodness, there could be a lot of interstate travel going on to make sure aficionados take in all the best of Joshua Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields during their tour down under.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
Concert 1 19 April
Concert 2 20 April
Sydney Opera House
Concert 1 22 April
Concert 2 23 April
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Concert 1 26 April
Concert 2 27 April