Felix Mendelssohn–Bartholdy: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Overture, Op. 21
Antonín Dvořák: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A Minor, Op. 53, B. 108
Georges Bizet: Symphony No. 1 in C Major
The concerts of the orchestra of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under the baton of its musical director, the violinist Joshua Bell, demonstrate a quality that can be regarded as first class in the context of chamber music. Since the death of its legendary chief conductor Neville Marriner, the orchestra has continued its rich history of recording with studio-quality performances. At the heart of their festival appearance will be a performance of Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, which is a key repertoire item – it is a work that bears repeating when played by top artists. As a violinist and conductor, Bell takes a detailed approach. As he himself says, he persuades the orchestra to view even Beethoven’s symphonies as large string quartets. Besides Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, they will also give transparent performances of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which intricate interplay alternates with moments of pure joy. The concert will conclude with Georges Bizet’s Symphony in C Major, his only work in the genre, which bears eloquent witness to the talent of the man who composed the passionate opera Carmen.
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is a chamber orchestra founded in 1959 in London by conductor Neville Marriner, who was also its president until his death in 2016. The ensemble’s unusual name is taken from the London church where it gave its first public concerts. With its polished ensemble playing, perfection of style, and highly cultivated sound, during its more than 60 years of existence it has established itself as one of the world’s best chamber orchestras, and it has long been unparalleled in its interpretations of Mozart’s music, in particular. It gives concerts regularly across most of Europe, with illustrious conductors and soloists. One of the world’s most-recorded ensembles, it has more than 500 recordings to its credit on several different labels. Its best-selling album remains the soundtrack to Miloš Forman’s film Amadeus. Its present music director is the violin virtuoso, Joshua Bell.
The American violinist Joshua Bell is one of today’s most celebrated artists. Bell has appeared with virtually every major orchestra in the world, received multiple GRAMMY® nominations for over 40 albums, including for his recording of Nicholas Maw's Violin Concerto, for which he won the 2000 GRAMMY® for Best Instrumental Solo, and has garnered numerous accolades, including the 2007 Avery Fisher Prize. Bell has performed for three American presidents and the sitting justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. He participated in President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ first cultural mission to Cuba, featured in the 2017 Emmy-nominated Live from Lincoln Center PBS special, Joshua Bell: Seasons of Cuba. In 2011, Bell was named Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, succeeding Sir Neville Marriner, who formed the orchestra in 1959. Bell maintains active involvement with Education Through Music and Turnaround Arts, providing arts education to students who may not otherwise experience classical music firsthand. Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin.
The Rudolfinum is one of the most important Neo-Renaissance edifices in the Czech Republic. In its conception as a multi-purpose cultural centre it was quite unique in Europe at the time of its construction. Based on a joint design by two outstanding Czech architects, Josef Zítek and Josef Schultz, a magnificent building was erected serving for concerts, as a gallery, and as a museum. The grand opening on 7 February 1885 was attended by Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, in whose honour the structure was named. In 1896 the very first concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra took place in the Rudolfinum's main concert hall, under the baton of the composer Antonín Dvořák whose name was later bestowed on the hall.