As part of the Sunday Classics series, Usher Hall presented the Academy of St Martin in the Fields led by the great soloist Joshua Bell. With famous names like these, expectations are always high; but, boy, did they deliver!
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, considered to be one of the greatest chamber orchestras, are well known for their new interpretations of popular classical music and for playing without a conductor. The Academy is currently under the direction of Joshua Bell, one of the greatest violinists of our generation. Bell’s career spans more than 30 years, winning many awards, including the Grammy and Gramophone award, and great acclaim.
With Vivaldi’s Four seasons, the afternoon began with one of the most renowned pieces of classical music. This famous depiction of the natural world continues to inspire musicians and listeners alike and Bell and the Academy presented a brilliant interpretation The well-known melodies of ‘Spring’ and ‘Winter’ echoed throughout the hall, the captivating Bell led the orchestra in dynamic movements with a lyrical finesse. His energy was reflected by the Academy, their playing was meticulous and engaging; mesmerizing the audience from the very first notes.
The second piece played was Edgar Meyer’s Overture for Violin and Orchestra, which he specifically composed for his friend Joshua Bell and the Academy. This contemporary piece put Bell in focus and played to his skill and strength. Although a great complement to Vivaldi’s and Beethoven’s classics, the Overture needed a bit more finetuning regarding the Orchestra, with the brass players which were in parts overpowering.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D major is one of his lesser known pieces and often overshadowed by the famous symphonies framing it. However, it marked a significant change in the genre for Beethoven replaced the typical Minuet with a Scherzo and it soon became the norm in symphonic writing. This often underestimated symphony was brilliantly performed by Bell and the Academy of St Martin. From the leader’s chair, Bell directed the energetically and the musicians create a truly beautiful and inspiring rendition.
Joshua Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields were a true delight. Under the direction of Bell, the Orchestra treated the audience to a remarkable afternoon bursting with enthusiasm, skill and joy. Until 25th of January you can still catch their performance in the UK, and from the 9th of March they’ll be touring the US.
Guest Reviewer: Leonie Verstegge