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.
Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. Named the Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 2011, Bell is the first person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958.
Equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and orchestra leader, Bell’s 2015 summer highlights included a South American and European tour with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, a tour to South Africa, including appearances with the Johannesburg Philharmonic and Starlight Classics, performances in New York and Shanghai with the New York Philharmonic and summer festivals including Verbier, Tanglewood, Mostly Mozart and Saratoga.
Bell kicked off the Fall season 2015 performing with the Houston, St. Louis and Indianapolis Symphony orchestras, a U.S. recital tour with pianist Sam Haywood, a European tour with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and three concerts as guest soloist with the New York Philharmonic led by Alan Gilbert both end the year and start 2016. The new year continued with a U.S. recital tour with Sam Haywood and with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Orchestral dates celebrating the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s centennial season conducted by Marin Alsop, the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Jarvi, and the London Symphony Orchestra were also scheduled. Bell was then off to Asia for a recital tour with Alessio Bax and orchestra appearances highlighted by an appearance in Tokyo with the NHK Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin.
An exclusive Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 CDs since his first LP recording at age 18 on the Decca Label garnering Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone and Echo Klassik awards in the process.
Recent releases include Bell’s holiday CD, Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends, featuring collaborations with Chris Botti, Chick Corea, Gloria Estefan, Renée Fleming, Plácido Domingo, Alison Krauss and others. Other releases include French Impressions with pianist Jeremy Denk, featuring sonatas by Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Franck, The Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, as well as The Red Violin Concerto, The Essential Joshua Bell, Voice of the Violin, and Romance of the Violin, which Billboard named the 2004 Classical CD of the Year, and Bell the Classical Artist of the Year. Highlights of the Sony Classical film soundtracks on which Bell has performed include The Red Violin which won the Oscar for Best Original Score.
Seeking opportunities to increase violin repertoire, Bell has premiered new works by Nicholas Maw, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Edgar Meyer, Behzad Ranjbaran and Jay Greenberg. Bell also performs and has recorded his own cadenzas to most of the major violin concertos.
In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University where he currently serves as a senior lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music. His alma mater honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award, he has been named an “Indiana Living Legend” and is the recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award.
Bell has received many accolades: In 2013 he was honored by the New York Chapter, The Recording Academy; in 2012 by the National Young Arts Foundation. Bell was named “Instrumentalist of the Year 2010” by Musical America and received the Humanitarian Award from Seton Hall University.
Bell serves on the artist committee of the Kennedy Center Honors and the Board of Director of the New York Philharmonic and Education Through Music.
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin and uses a late 18th century French bow by François Tourte.
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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