The distinguished Academy of St Martin in the Fields orchestra gave a congenial performance last Wednesday, at the hands — and bow — of Maestro Joshua Bell. The program began with the whimsical overture from Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, relying heavily on the brass and wind sections to bring the impish phrases to life, while the strings created sweeping, lofty melodies. Bell exercised total control over each section from the first chair, and it was refreshing to watch a piece unfold without a conductor.
Henryk Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 rightfully featured Bell as the soloist, playing with fervency and refinement. The concerto played out like a torrid romance, with manic highs, executed with agile bowing, and desolate lows, which left the hall completely silent. It’s always fascinating to witness Bell’s formidably militaristic playing style, and he paired well with the smaller-sized ensemble, together creating a multilayered sound.
The evening’s highlight resided in a polished performance of Beethoven’s beloved Symphony No. 6 in F Major, with particular compliments to the strings for their precise rendering of the bright phrases, fostering images of playful young Pegasuses inhabiting Beethoven’s musically pastoral landscape. To see both a renowned orchestra and celebrated soloist turned maestro together was a unique experience and a special treat.