Academy of St Martin in the Fields

with Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,
SoundBite and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Saturday 9th January

Symphony Hall

Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Joshua Bell violin/direction
Steven Isserlis cello

Dvořák Silent Woods from From the Bohemian Forest Op 68 7’
Beethoven Symphony No 5 31’
Schuman Violin Concerto, mv. II (codetta by Britten)
Brahms Double Concerto 34’


The original virtuoso chamber orchestra, with two of the world’s most respected soloists – when Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis join the Academy of St Martin and the Fields, you’d expect some seriously stylish playing. But from the grandeur of Brahms to Beethoven’s most famous symphony, there’ll be drama too. A stirring programme from some truly exceptional performers.


Review by Robert Gainer, BachTrack:

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…     “Thankfully the piano stool was absent as the audience returned to their seats for a second half featuring the second movement Langsam of Robert Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor (WoO, codetta by Benjamin Britten), and Johannes Brahms Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor. The first of these two pieces, written immediately before Schumann’s suicide attempt, is rarely performed. Bell did not waste the opportunity to demonstrate the tender romantic lyricism of his playing and he wrought out of his strings a bitter-sweet melancholy befitting of both the piece and his reputation.

The best was yet to come though, as the Brahms concerto featured partnership playing at the very highest level. The orchestra provided a faultless canvas upon which Isserlis drew light and shade beneath Bell’s wonderful detail. Sat centre-stage with his distinctive mop of hair doing its own thing, one could clearly see that Isserlis was joyously living this music with every fibre of his being and his enthusiasm was contagious. The musical understanding the two soloists share was audibly manifest, their phrasing was seamlessly matched, and their cohesive interplay and interpretation will be the lasting memory of the performance.”


Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Saturday 18th January

Symphony Hall

Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Joshua Bell violin/director

J S Bach (arr J Milone) Chaconne from Partita No 2 in D minor (for violin & string orchestra)
Brahms Violin Concerto 38
Beethoven Symphony No 3, Eroica 47’

Joshua Bell’s visits to Symphony Hall always create a buzz; and when the Academy of St Martin in the Fields was looking to appoint only its second ever Music Director, this ‘poet of the violin’ (Interview) was the natural choice. Today’s programme celebrates the whole range of their partnership, with Bell performing both as conductor in Beethoven’s Eroica symphony and as peerless soloist in very different concertos by Bach and Brahms.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

This concert brings you the three B’s of classical music: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, three composers who are a bit like the crucial foundations of a building. Without such solid foundations, classical music might never have been built to endure, as it has done, for hundreds of years.



Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “this piece and the rest of the programme all players showed a pleasing chemistry, resulting in a warm sound that was both intimate and inviting. A conversational atmosphere emerged, particularly where plucked orchestral strings provided a luscious delicacy in support of Bell’s virtuosity. The cadenza had me wondering how on earth a human being could possibly play that fast, only for Bach to then slow the pace right down for the soulful finish such that the audience finally breathed out again.

Bell was in his element playing the Brahms Violin Concerto and directing it at the same time, with plenty of body language, in which even his floppy fringe played a part! Appropriately enough, Brahms composed this piece for violinist and conductor Joseph Joachim, who received huge acclaim for the first movement’s cadenza, which the composer had left unwritten in deference to his friend’s musical prowess. Tonight’s crowd relished Bell’s take on this section with pin-drop attention, then burst into inter-movement applause after the beauty and explosive drama of the coda. The soloist himself had a moment or two to catch his breath and step out of the spotlight while the oboe, supported by woodwind colleagues, launched the Adagio, which the violin then beautifully echoed and embroidered, exploring a variety of keys. The finale took us into Hungarian territory, the country of Joachim’s birth. The playful folk dance rhythms were a breath of fresh air and I could sense a collective foot-tapping. A brief period of a calmer tempo intervened, to be followed by a transformation of the gypsy theme into an accented, exciting march in which the flutes in particular added to the general high spirits.

After the interval Bell directed Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony from the leader’s chair – or virtually out of it at times. His energy was reflected by the whole ensemble, and there was an atmosphere of intense concentration and a sense of urgency, an urge to convey the necessary heroism, in fact.”     …



Review by Ian Harvey, Native Monster:

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…     “Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No 2 in D minor, is all dramatic runs up and down the neck of the violin, Bell performing an arrangement with just the orchestra’s strings that saw the sold-out audience rapt throughout.

Brahm’s Violin Concerto is one of the masterpieces of the romantic repertoire, at once dramatic and beguiling, sweeping and charging. Bell acted as both soloist and conductor, using his bow to count in the orchestra before taking up the violin’s sumptuous opening melody and showing why he is so often referred to as “the poet of the violin”.

For Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, Bell took his place among the first violins, conducting not from a podium but from a stool at the front of the stage, so that he occasionally almost leapt to his feet to get the message to the orchestral sections at the rear of the stage while seemingly conducting the string players around him with a mixture of eye commands, nods and sweeps of his bow.

True to its name, this was a truly heroic performance, the chamber orchestra reacting to the demands of both music and conductor to create a performance that was rich and polished with a fully enveloping sound.”  



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “A performance of Brahms’ violin concerto by a soloist of Bell’s immense talent cannot fail to have some passages of great beauty; here the slow movement did, and the first movement’s flourish with Bell’s bow pointing skywards drew a round of applause. But his decision to conduct (Maxim Vengerov School of vague arm-waving) made the concerto tasteful rather than titanic. Nothing to frighten the horses – nothing to make the angels weep. Bell’s decision to play Bach’s Chaconne from the second Partita for solo violin in an execrable and superfluous arrangement with string orchestra, by Julian Milone, was unfathomable”

Joshua Bell plays Bruch and Beethoven

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2012/13… more events

Sunday 14 October

Symphony Hall

Please note this replaces the previously advertised programme:

Beethoven: Overture, Egmont, Op 84      9′

Beethoven: Romance No 2 in F Major, Op 50     9′

Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, Op 46     30′

Mendelssohn: Symphony No 3 in A Minor, Op 56. Scottish    40′


The 21-year old Joshua Bell made his first concerto disc in 1988 with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under its founder, Sir Neville Marriner. Twenty-four years later, he’s now one of the world’s most acclaimed violinists.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of today’s recommended concert:

This is the American violinist’s first year as Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Joshua Bell says the role is an amazing opportunity: ‘It’s a dream come true… They’re such an exciting orchestra, they really play on the edge of their seats.’




Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review  (may need to scroll down)

…     “In Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy Bell and the Academy interplayed the contrasts of lilting folk tunes with intricate detail and strong melodies with gentle moments of finely held calm. The complexity of the piece gave Bell his moments to shine, reminding us of why he is so highly regarded as a soloist.

Finally we were given a treat with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3, the Scottish Symphony. Taking his inspiration from a visit to Scotland, Mendelssohn captures not only echoes of Hebridean tunes but also those swirling mists of the glens and mightiness of the lofty mountains.

As Bell maintained the musical conversation with his fellow artists, we were swept away through a range of emotional responses.”

Bell and Isserlis Play Brahms

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Sat 5 Mar 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Joshua Bell  violin
Steven Isserlis  cello

Haydn Symphony No 13 20’
Mendelssohn Symphony No 4, Italian 28’
Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello 32’

Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis join forces in the radiant lyricism of Brahms’s Double Concerto. In addition Joshua Bell directs Mendelssohn’s exuberant Italian Symphony, and Steven Isserlis conducts Haydn’s Symphony No 13 – a delightful exercise in youthful high spirits.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert:
“A musical tour de force with two celebrated soloists who are also accomplished at conducting and directing. The Brahms Double Concerto should be a treat to behold.”

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

…   “It was a pity he faced the orchestra for three movements, as it made his own playing redundant; but his full-frontal rendition of the Adagio’s meltingly lovely cello solo more than compensated.

In some ways this was the high spot of the evening. The Andante of Brahms’s Concerto for Violin and Cello (with conductor Ian Brown in charge) came a close second and was beautifully shaped. Both soloists brought passionate energy to the other movements, even in those passages where Brahms’s inspiration seems to have deserted him.”    …

Murray Perahia Plays Bach and Mozart

Fri 13 Nov 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Murray Perahia piano/director

J C Bach Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, T288/7
Mozart Piano Concerto No 17 in G, K453
J S Bach Concerto No 3 in D, BWV1054
Mozart Symphony No 38, Prague

Maturity, elegance and simplicity are hallmarks of Murray Perahia’s performances. In the great classical works he is ardent, persuasive, but never dull. With this concert Perahia extends his range, directing Mozart and Bach from the keyboard and taking up the baton for the Prague Symphony – a work of grandeur, majesty and celebratory exuberance.

Encore: Final movement Haydn Symphony?

Review by Rian Evans, Guardian: 

“The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is celebrating its half-century by touring Europe with Murray Perahia as pianist/director. ….The Academy players were alert to Perahia’s every nuance, with flautist Adam Walker and oboist Christopher Cowie outstanding.” 5/5