REVIEW: Brits and Bell Bravely Brandish Beethoven Beatifically

San Diego Story
Ken Herman
March 18, 2018

In a way, experiencing the storied Academy of St. Martin in the Fields play in the Jacobs Music Center on Friday (March 16) was like encountering a long lost friend. In the distant salad days of classical radio broadcasting, hearing an announcer intone “played by the Academy of St. Martin in the Field under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner” seemed as ubiquitous as the station identification.

With a catalogue of some 500 recordings, this chamber orchestra covered the waterfront with fresh, vibrant accounts of a wide range of western music. When Marriner retired—at age 87—in 2011, the famous American violin virtuoso Joshua Bell succeeded him, and Bell provided the center of Friday’s concert. He starred in Henryk Weiniawski’s Second Violin Concerto in D Minor and led the ensemble as Concertmaster in Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.

I am happy to report that the orchestra’s signature élan—its immaculate precision, tight ensemble, and ingratiating sonority—remains firmly in place under Bell, a condition that was immediately communicated by orchestra’s sparkling, elegantly detailed account of the familiar Mendelssohn Overture…