The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is one of the world’s greatest chamber orchestras, renowned for fresh, brilliant interpretations of the world’s greatest classical music.
Formed by Sir Neville Marriner in 1958 from a group of leading London musicians, the Academy gave its first performance in its namesake church in November 1959. Through unrivalled live performances and a vast recording output – highlights of which include the 1969 best-seller Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film Amadeus – the Academy quickly gained an enviable international reputation for its distinctive, polished and refined sound. With over 500 releases in a much-vaunted discography and a comprehensive international touring programme, the name and sound of the Academy is known and loved by classical audiences throughout the world.
Today the Academy is led by Music Director and virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, retaining the collegiate spirit and flexibility of the original small, conductor-less ensemble which has become an Academy hallmark. Under Bell’s direction, and with the support of Director / Leader Tomo Keller and Principal Guest Conductor Murray Perahia, the Academy continues to push the boundaries of play-directed performance to new heights, presenting symphonic repertoire and chamber music on a grand scale at prestigious venues from New York to Beijing.
Alongside 80 performances in 16 different countries during the 2017/18 season, the Academy continues to reach out to people of all ages and backgrounds through its learning and participation programmes. The Academy’s flagship project for young people provides performance workshops for primary and secondary school children; partnerships with Southbank Sinfonia, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Royal Northern College of Music and masterclasses on tour further the development of the professional musicians of tomorrow; the Academy provides a creative outlet for some of London’s most vulnerable adults at a centre for homeless people; and a regular programme of pre-concert talks and podcasts create opportunities for Academy audiences the world over to connect and learn with the orchestra.
With a career spanning more than 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor, Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. An exclusive Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 CDs garnering Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone and Echo Klassik awards and is recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize. Named the Music Director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in 2011, he is the only person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.
Bell’s 2016/17 season included season-opening appearances with the Atlanta Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra and performances with the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert, Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, plus the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. He undertook four international orchestral tours: to the U.K., Benelux, Germany and Australia with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; to Switzerland with the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra; to Austria, Germany, Italy and Sweden with the Swedish Radio Symphony under Daniel Harding; and to Korea and Japan with the Orchestra de Paris also with Harding.
During the 2016-17 season, Bell appeared as Artist-in-Residence at the Kennedy Center and National Symphony Orchestra. Performing and collaborating across artistic and educational mediums, Bell explored the depths of artistic possibilities examining synergies between music, dance, the culinary arts, literature, education, and technology.
Bell has performed for three U.S. Presidents as well as the President of China and devoted himself to several charitable causes, most notably Education Through Music, which helps put instruments in the hands of thousands of children in America’s inner cities.
In September 2016, Sony Classical released ‘For the Love of Brahms’, with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk. Bell’s 2014 Sony release was a Bach album recorded with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields that coincided with an HBO YoungArts documentary special, ‘Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass’. His 2013 release with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, featured him conducting Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh symphonies.
In 2013, Sony released Bell’s holiday CD ‘Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends’, featuring collaborations with Chris Botti, Chick Corea, Gloria Estefan, Renée Fleming, Plácido Domingo, Alison Krauss and others. Other releases include French Impressions with pianist Jeremy Denk, featuring sonatas by Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Franck, ‘At Home with Friends’, Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, ‘The Tchaikovsky Concerto’ with the Berlin Philharmonic, as well as ‘The Red Violin Concerto’, ‘The Essential Joshua Bell’, ‘Voice of the Violin’ and ‘Romance of the Violin’, which Billboard named the 2004 Classical CD of the Year, and Bell the Classical Artist of the Year.
Bell received critical acclaim for his concerto recordings of Sibelius and Goldmark, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, and the Grammy Award winning Nicholas Maw concerto. His Grammy-nominated Gershwin Fantasy premiered a new work for violin and orchestra based on themes from Porgy and Bess. Its success led to a Grammy-nominated Bernstein recording that included the premiere of the West Side Story Suite as well as the composer’s Serenade. Bell appeared on the Grammy-nominated crossover recording ‘Short Trip Home’ with composer and double bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, as well as a recording with Meyer of the Bottesini Gran Duo Concertante. He collaborated with Wynton Marsalis on the Grammy-winning spoken word children’s album ‘Listen to the Storyteller’ and Béla Fleck’s Grammy Award winning recording ‘Perpetual Motion’. Highlights of the Sony Classical film soundtracks on which he has performed include ‘The Red Violin’, which won the Oscar for Best Original Score, the Classical Brit-nominated ‘Ladies in Lavender’, and the films ‘Iris’ and ‘Defiance’.
Seeking opportunities to increase violin repertoire, Bell has premiered new works by John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Nicholas Maw, Edgar Meyer, Behzad Ranjbaran and Jay Greenberg. He also performs and has recorded his own cadenzas to most of the major violin concertos.
Perhaps the event that helped most to transform Bell’s reputation from “musician’s musician” to household name was his incognito performance in a Washington, D.C. subway station in 2007. Ever adventurous, he had agreed to participate in a Washington Post story by Gene Weingarten which thoughtfully examined art and context. The story earned Weingarten a Pulitzer Prize and sparked an international firestorm of discussion. The conversation continues to this day and inspired the 2013 release of the children’s book ‘The Man with the Violin’ by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Dušan Petričić from Annick Press.
Growing up with his two sisters in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell was an avid computer game player. He placed fourth in a national tennis tournament at age 10, and still keeps his racquet close by. At age four, he received his first violin after his parents, both mental health professionals, noticed him plucking tunes with rubber bands he had stretched around his dresser drawer handles. By 12, he was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to the inspiration Josef Gingold, his beloved teacher and mentor. Two years later, Bell came to national attention in his debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Carnegie Hall debut, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a notable recording contract further confirmed his presence.
In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University where he currently serves as a senior lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music. His alma mater honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award; he has been named an “Indiana Living Legend” and is the recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award.
Bell has received many accolades: In 2013 he was honored by the New York Chapter of The Recording Academy; in 2012 by the National YoungArts Foundation, in 2011 he received the Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons and the Huberman Award from Moment Magazine. Bell was named “Instrumentalist of the Year, 2010” by Musical America and received the Humanitarian Award from Seton Hall University. In 2009 he was honored by Education Through Music and received the Academy of Achievement Award in 2008. He was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 2007 and was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2005.
In 2003 Bell was invited to perform at the World Economic Forum for an audience of global leaders and was later recognized by that prestigious organization as a Young Global Leader. He serves on the artist committee of the Kennedy Center Honors, the New York Philharmonic Board of Directors, and Education Through Music.
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin and uses a late 18th century French bow by François Tourte.