For the first time in their illustrious history, the Czech Philharmonic will make an appearance at concerts in the United Arab Emirates. In March 2013, the orchestra will be performing in Abu Dhabi with Jiří Bělohlávek and renowned soloists Ana María Martínez (soprano), Victoria Yastrebova (soprano), Placido Domingo (tenor), Bryn Terfel (bass baritone), and Joshua Bell (violin). The orchestra looks forward to presenting three different programs over the course of the city’s Abu Dhabi Festival.
With a career spanning more than thirty years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, conductor and director, Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. His curiosity and clarity of insight are a testament to his belief in the power of music as a unifying cultural force. An artist of precision and passion, Bell is committed to the violin as an instrument of expression and a vehicle for realizing the new and unexplored.
Having performed with every major orchestra in the world on six continents, Bell continues to maintain engagements as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. Since 2011, Bell has served as Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, succeeding Sir Neville Marriner, who formed the orchestra in 1958. Bell’s multifaceted interests range from performing the repertoire’s hallmarks to recording commissioned works, including Nicholas Maw’s Violin Concerto, for which Bell received a Grammy® award. He has also premiered works of John Corigliano, Edgar Meyer, Jay Greenberg, and Behzad Ranjbaran, continually exploring the boundaries of the repertoire and the instrument.
As an exclusive Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 albums garnering Grammy®, Mercury®, Gramophone and ECHO Klassik awards. Sony Classical’s most recent release in June 2018, with Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, features Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and G minor Violin Concerto. Bell’s previous release, For the Love of Brahms in 2016, includes 19th-century repertoire with the Academy, Steven Isserlis, and Jeremy Denk. Bell’s 2013 release with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, featured him conducting Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh symphonies and debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts.
In 2007, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post story, centered on Bell performing incognito in a Washington, D.C. metro station, sparked an ongoing conversation regarding artistic reception and context. The feature inspired Kathy Stinson’s 2013 children’s book, The Man With The Violin, and a newly-commissioned animated film, with music by Academy Award-winning composer Anne Dudley. Stinson’s subsequent 2017 book, Dance With The Violin, illustrated by Dušan Petričić, offers a glimpse into one of Bell’s competition experiences at age 12. Bell debuted The Man With The Violin festival at the Kennedy Center in 2017, and, in March 2019, presents a Man With The Violin festival and family concert with the Seattle Symphony.
Bell advocates for music as an essential educational tool, as both a way for classical music to find diverse audiences, and also to deepen his audience’s connection to the art. He maintains active involvement with Education Through Music and Turnaround Arts, which provide instruments and arts education to children who may not otherwise be able to experience classical music firsthand. In 2014, Bell mentored and performed alongside National YoungArts Foundation string musicians in an HBO Family Documentary special, “Joshua Bell: A YoungArts Masterclass.” Bell continues to work alongside young talent to foster the next generation of classical music ambassadors, and currently serves as senior lecturer at his alma mater, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
Born in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell began the violin at the age of four, and at age twelve, began studies with his mentor, Josef Gingold. At age 14, Bell debuted with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and made his Carnegie Hall debut at age 17 with the St. Louis Symphony. At age 18, Bell signed with his first label, London Decca, and received the Avery Fisher Career Grant. In the years following, Bell has been named 2010 “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America, a 2007 “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum, nominated for five Grammy® awards, and received the 2007 Avery Fisher Prize. He has also received the 2003 Indiana Governorʼs Arts Award and a Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 1991 from the Jacobs School of Music. In 2000, he was named an “Indiana Living Legend” and one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful.”
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin, with a François Tourte 18th-Century bow.
Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70,one of Antonín Dvořák’s masterworks, was written at the invitation of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, which made the composer an honorary member in 1884. At that time Dvořák already enjoyed in England the unshakeable position as one of the greatest living composers. In late November 1884, he completed the score of his cantata, The Spectre’s Bride, and since the Philharmonic Society planned to present the world premiere of Dvořák’s new symphony – to be conducted by the composer – as early as the spring of the next year, he quickly started work on it. He completed the opus within three months and on 22 April 1885 he could introduce it at a Philharmonic Society concert in St James’s Hall, London.
The dramatic, sombre atmosphere of the Seventh Symphony, rich in ideas and a masterpiece of form, is often put into the context of the Czech nation’s struggle for identity within the multinational Habsburg Empire. Even if we abstract from the possible connections with the social, cultural and political situations of the Czechs at the time, we see that the symphony’s message is readily intelligible as a general statement about human existence.
The opening movement – Allegro maestoso – unusually starts in pianissimo with a plaintive, gloomy main theme in violas and cellos. The auxiliary theme, in B flat major, brings a sudden change of atmosphere, but its clarity is soon disrupted: the internal struggle continues and the doubts are far from being dispelled. Despite an airy melody presented by the clarinet, the lyrical second movement gradually develops an increasingly urgent and agitated aspect. The third movement that follows – Scherzo – is perhaps the work’s best-known. It is distinguished by a strong rhythm in its main theme, but its carefree dance character is dampened both by the D minor tonality and a contrasting countermelody, adding a certain melancholy to its liveliness. Like the opening Allegro maestoso, the final movement is in sonata form. After a dramatic surge, the gloomy atmosphere lightens up – it is as if the conclusion, in D major, symbolised a firm determination and a convincing victory of the will.
The vast majority of the operas by Richard Wagner is inspired by mythological themes of epic poems, sagas and legends. This also applies to Tannhäuser, the first opera on such topic, which is based on a saga about the legendary medieval German Minnesinger who struggles between the ideal, unfulfilled love to a noblewoman Elizabeth and erotic pleasures in the Venusberg. This key contradiction takes place in the setting of a song contest at Wartburg, in which singers compete in expressing the nature of love. The “Grand Romantic Opera”, as the work has been called, has become Wagner’s new attempt at artistic treatment of the contradiction between society and the artist who seeks redemption through women’s understanding and love for his actions. The premiere of Tannhäuser was held on 19 October 1845 and was met with lukewarm reception and polite embarrassment of the audience and unequivocal condemnation of critics. The substantial overture is actually a unique symphonic work by itself. This is why it is frequently performed as a separate item in orchestral concerts. It is interesting that Wagner himself left a comprehensive commentary on the content and course of the overture, being – as indeed with all his works – also the author of the libretto of the opera.
The music by Gioacchino Rossini, native of Pesaro, Italy, builds on humor and the sparkling brilliance of the strings. Rossini wrote in total 39 operas; the greatest success came with Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), Otello, La gazza ladra, and Guillaume Tell. At 37 years of age he unexpectedly retired from being an opera composer; after that he composed only sporadically and due to his depression lived the following 40 years in seclusion. The libretto of The Barber of Seville was based on Beaumarchais’s comedy. The plot is full of incognito disguises and all the romantic troubles are solved by Figaro the barber. The famous overture was paradoxically recycled from Rossini’s opera Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra, written a year earlier.
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