by Tony Frankel on February 26, 2020

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


Many know that Academy of St Martin in the Fields is a touring and recording chamber orchestra founded by Sir Neville Marriner in 1958. But did you know that since 2011 the world-renowned virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell has been their Music Director? Next to Marriner, who turns 90 next month, Bell is only the second person to hold the title in the orchestra’s history. While Bell still performs with different orchestras around the world, his tone of rare beauty will be heard with the Academy this Wednesday, March 4, at The Soraya.

After witnessed dozens of visiting orchestras, I can confirm that the acoustics at The Soraya easily rival those of Disney Hall. The hall is not only a perfect place to hear classical music live, but it’s also gorgeous. So not only are you guaranteed to be treated to a sophisticated concertgoing experience, you get a superb chamber orchestra and one of the greatest living violinists playing his 306-year-old Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius violin (made in Stradivari’s “Golden Era”). Along with Bell’s spirited rendition of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6, the program includes Beethoven’s still startling Symphony No. 5.

With over 500 recordings to date, the Academy is one of the most recorded chamber orchestras in the world. Four years before Bell became Music Director, he recorded Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the orchestra, a recording which reached No.1 on the Billboard Classical Chart; coincidentally, the Academy received its first gold disc for the recording of the same in 1969. The Academy is also known for its soundtrack recordings of both The English Patient and Amadeus, their best-selling recording which won 13 gold discs alone.

I became familiarized with many classical works due to its many recordings, which had on the label the hyphenated name “St. Martin-in-the-Fields,” as the Academy was named after the Trafalgar Square church where the orchestra gave its first concert on November 13, 1959. The orchestra dropped the hyphens from its full name in 1988, but even hyphen-free it remains one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world, celebrated for its polished, sophisticated sound and outstanding musicianship. Originally directed from the leader’s chair by Marriner (who happened to be the first music director of our own Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 1969 to 1978), the spirit and flexibility of the conductorless ensemble remains an Academy tradition.

This is a trifecta of great programming, players, and venue which I can’t recommend highly enough.

photo of Joshua Bell courtesy of the artist

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
with Joshua Bell, violin
PAGANINI Violin Concerto No. 1
in D Major, Op. 6

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5
in C Minor, Op. 67
The Soraya
18111 Nordhoff Street in Northridge
Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at 8
for tickets, call 818.677.3000
or visit The Soraya

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