New Music Director for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Joshua’s first tour as the new music director for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields kicked off in London on April 5th with a concert of Mozart, Beethoven and Bruch, and then it was off to the United States.
Noted the Guardian: “It was in Beethoven's fourth symphony, however, that the partnership really came alive…the tension and balance were just electric… proof, finally, that Bell's direction could carry the Academy into the 21st century.”
The NY Times: “Mr. Bell seemed an assured leader who knows what he wants and is intent on getting it. What he wanted in “Coriolan” was drama, something he achieved through stark dynamic contrasts and tense, hard-driven string lines. ..Those qualities were magnified in his bracing account of the Fourth Symphony, which sounded, for once, like a major essay: a worthy bridge between the “Eroica” and the Fifth Symphony, rather than the transitional placeholder it too often seems to be.”
The Washington Post: “For Bell’s fans, the centerpiece of the program was undoubtedly his beautifully turned reading of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, featuring cadenzas, by Bell himself, full of febrile arpeggios and passages of whispered intimacy. Bell’s lyrical approach to this work, coupled with his uncommon sweetness of tone, was well matched by the orchestra. Poise, scrupulous balancing of instrumental textures and elegance of tone have always been trademark qualities of the Academy’s playing, and the silken response of the strings and supple voicing of the winds heard on Friday reminded us of just how fine this orchestra is. And, with hand-in-glove dovetailing of solo and orchestral lines, Bell was so at one with his fellow musicians, they seemed to be breathing together…But the true revelation at Friday’s concert was Bell the conductor. In Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and, even more so, in his Symphony No. 4, Bell alternated playing along with the first violins and conducting (with great physical animation) from his seat, sculpting the air expressively with his bow to bring forth a wealth of interpretive detail from the musicians. … This was as superb a Beethoven Fourth as I’ve heard, delivered by a conductor of tremendous promise and genuine ideas — who also happens to be one heck of a violinist.”
DC MetroTheatreArts.com: “(Actually, 5 stars multiplied to infinity…They were so fabulously pure and good that the rating stars here escaped and filled the sky all the way to musical heaven, where an ecstatically happy and proud Beethoven (hearing restored) is still singing and dancing in approval.”
Said the L.A. Times: “…starts were fast, breaking was hard and spurts of torque were spine-tingling… The encore was the opening movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 25, an ASMF calling card, and it was terrific. It did surprise. It sounded like a symphony with an unpredictable inner life.”
And from the toughest critics of all: other violinists!
This was posted on Violinist.com: “My wife made the following comment in an email to a colleague who was also at the concert: "The second piece [the violin concerto] was beyond fabulous. I have seldom, if ever, been so entirely captivated by a musical performance. I muttered the Shehechianu [a Jewish prayer of thanksgiving to G-d for keeping a person alive to witness a particular day or event].”
A Special Fan:
One of the tour’s dates included the new Smith Center in Las Vegas. When Joshua learned there was a special fan unable to come hear the music due to serious health issues, Joshua made sure the music got to him along with a note of encouragement.
Pictured here is Pirro Dollani. Photo courtesy of Cindy Phillips.