Classical review: The Academy Of St Martin In The Fields, Edinburgh

Joshua Bell is a superb violinist, whose technical dexterity, intense focus and innate musicianship have audiences enthralled.

Usher Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Usher Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The Academy Of St Martin In The Fields - Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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As music director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, he uses these same qualities to polish every note until it glistens.

Bell’s beguiling interpretation of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major was full of these jewel-like moments. Furthermore, the orchestra was with him every beat of the way, from the opening movement, which alternates between emphatic double stopping and sweeping lyricism, to the foot-stomping finale with its swerving Hungarian rhythms. The slow movement was a gift to Bell, whose seamless phrasing and golden tone spun a web of enchantment.

In the first half of the concert, Bell and the orchestra were bouncing on the edge of their seats throughout Beethoven’s Symphony No 1 in C major. Although it appears deceptively simple, some of the rhythms, can be tricky to bring off. However, thanks to Bell’s fresh and inspired approach, this performance was a tour de force.

The same could not be said for Julian Milone’s arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No 2 in D minor for violin and strings. He managed to reduce Bach’s free-spirited solo to a bland, uninteresting work that sounded like an “off-season” Vivaldi concerto. The string accompaniment undermined the structural integrity of the work with the best bits the all too rare moments when Bell was free to soar unshackled by the orchestra.