San Diego Story
March 3, 2020
In the heyday of classical music radio broadcasting, a regular listener probably heard the phrase “performed by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under the direction of Neville Marriner” more frequently than he heard the call letters and frequency of the radio station. Having made hundreds of first-rate recordings, this redoubtable chamber orchestra made available a staggering cornucopia of Western instrumental music. Unless you were looking for Mahler’s Symphony of A Thousand or the complete symphonic catalogue of Bruckner and Scriabin, the Academy—as our British cousins refer to the orchestra—has probably recorded it.
Although Marriner conducted into his nineties and died in 2016, in 2011 the Academy appointed American violin virtuoso Joshua Bell as Music Director of the Academy. The La Jolla Music Society brought the Academy under Bell to San Diego two years ago, and they returned to the Jacobs Music Center in downtown San Diego Monday, March 2. The orchestra continues to flourish under Bell’s leadership, and his playing—he indulged in Nicolo Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 6—is as peerless as ever: he maintains his signature radiant sonority, seamless and captivating throughout the range. His glorious tone and elegant phrasing are rarely compromised, regardless of the myriad technical challenges he subdues with graceful aplomb.