Today's Classical Music Video

Monday, August 5, 2013

Joshua Bell & the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

The legendary chamber orchestra the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields made a surprising choice recently when it chose Joshua Bell to be its next music director. Bell had little or no experience as a conductor so how could he be the right man for the job that Sir Neville Marriner long held with such distinction?

But the ASMF is a very special kind of chamber orchestra and Joshua Bell is a very special sort of musician. Like Bell Marriner was a violinist although he did not have an important career as a soloist. And for a time Marriner led from the concertmaster's chair as Bell has chosen to do. The ASMF sees itself as playing as a chamber ensemble as much as an orchestra, and Bell is not only a great soloist but a superlative chamber music player.

Conducting is a mysterious process in any case. In standard repertoire good orchestras don't even need one to give a competent performance. But ensembles do need leadership and a decision-maker for matters like bowing, articulation, tempo and dynamics. They also benefit from being led by great musicians who know the repertoire and who know how to rehearse and how to communicate. Joshua Bell has all these qualities and on the evidence of their first recording together Bell and the ASMF may be embarking on a very productive partnership.

Their first recording features Beethoven's Symphonies 4 and 7. The playing is not only finely detailed but fiery and exciting.

In this video Joshua Bell is featured with the ASMF in part of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. You will notice that Bell scarcely conducts at all. But you can be sure there was plenty of discussion in rehearsal, and that Bell is getting just what he wants from his players.

As of this week Bell is touring in Europe with the Australian Youth Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. For more information visit his website at

Paul E. Robinson



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