For over 50 years, Academy Of St Martin In The Fields has been one of the world's favourite orchestras.
Now led by violinist Joshua Bell, the Academy is bringing music to new generations.
Here, Joshua answers some questions about his experience, and the Academy's upcoming performances at Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
Why do you think Academy Of St Martin In The Fields is so loved?
Sir Neville Marriner created the Academy of St Martin in The Fields more than 50 years ago, and from the beginning he managed to attract some of the finest musicians in London. He set an incredibly high standard, and the orchestra became known for its unfailing precision and tasteful music-making. I grew up listening to the many recordings of the Academy, and always admired them. It is such a joy to lead such an orchestra, and I can’t wait to bring them to Australia! You've been in this industry as a career for over 30 years. Why have you stuck around so long? 30 years is nothing from an artist’s point of view! I feel like I’m still at the beginning of my musical journey, and I hope to be playing as long as I live. I think one of the keys to avoiding burnout, after years of the intense pressure of constantly going on stage, is to adopt such an attitude – that of an eternal student – always exploring, trying new things, and never settling into routine.
Where did it all begin for you?
I was lucky enough to have been born to two parents who loved music and encouraged me to play an instrument from the age of four. I was also fortunate to have grown up in Bloomington, Indiana, home to the largest music school in the USA, only minutes away from one of the greatest violin teachers in the world – Josef Gingold. My career started at the age of 14 when I got my first big break – a chance to perform with Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and that led to more performance opportunities, a recording contract, etc. Of course I had to work very hard to achieve and maintain a career as a concert violinist, but I am also very much aware of and appreciative for all the good fortune that has been thrown my way to help make it possible.
Image © Phil Knott
There's a long list of artists both in and out of the classical world that you've had the pleasure of collaborating with. Who has been your favourite/most memorable and why?
Yes, I’ve had the chance to work with so many great conductors and instrumentalists over the past 35 years, ranging from Rudolf Serkin to Yo-Yo Ma. I most frequently collaborate with cellist Steven Isserlis, who has been an inspiration since I was a teenager, and Pianist Jeremy Denk. In fact, the three of us just released an album called ‘For the Love of Brahms’, which includes the Brahms ‘Double’ concerto with Steven and the Academy of St. Martins, and the Opus 8 trio in its original version. I also enjoy, by the way, working with artists outside of the classical arena such as Edgar Meyer, Chick Correa, and Sting.
What are you looking forward to about leading this orchestra for these performances? Tell us a bit about what these performances at QPAC are all about?
Directing the Academy is always the highlight of my season, and the fact that we are coming to Australia after a too-long absence will only add to our feelings of excitement. We will bring some great programs, including masterpieces such as the incomparable Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, the Bruch Violin concerto (led and directed by me), and Mendelssohn’s brilliant Italian Symphony. I have always loved coming to Australia, ever since my first visit as a teenager in 1987!
What does the music you'll be performing at QPAC mean to you? Sell the concerts to our readers in one sentence.
I am delighted to be bringing to the QPAC one of the greatest orchestras in the world, playing one of the most precious violins in the world, my Stradivarius violin made in 1713, and performing some of the most glorious music ever written by Beethoven, Bruch, and Mendelssohn. Great music tells us what it means to be human and gives us insights into the universe in a way that no other medium can. In a world that provides us with so much uncertainty and chaos, we need great music – today more than ever.