The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras, renowned for fresh, brilliant interpretations of the world’s greatest orchestral music.
Formed by Sir Neville Marriner in 1958 from a group of leading London musicians, the Academy gave its first performance in its namesake church in November 1959. Through unrivalled live performances and a vast recording output – highlights of which include the 1969 best-seller Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film Amadeus – the Academy quickly gained an enviable international reputation for its distinctive, polished, and refined sound. With over 500 releases in a much-vaunted discography and a comprehensive international touring program, the name and sound of the Academy is known and loved by classical audiences throughout the world.
Today the Academy is led by Music Director and virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, retaining the collegiate spirit and flexibility of the original small, conductor-less ensemble which has become an Academy hallmark. Under Bell’s direction, and with the support of Leader/Director Tomo Keller and Principal Guest Conductor Murray Perahia, the Academy continues to push the boundaries of play-directed performance to new heights, presenting symphonic repertoire and chamber music on a grand scale at prestigious venues around the globe.
When COVID-19 sparked lockdowns across the globe, the Academy responded by establishing a digital campaign to fund the production of new performance videos as well as launching a new concert series at its spiritual home of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London’s Trafalgar Square. The series – the first of its kind in the orchestra’s home city for many years – saw the Academy collaborate with international artists on concert programs devised by members of the orchestra.
In June 2022, on Sky Arts UK, the Academy presented A London Dream, a celebration of Mendelssohn’s exquisite interpretation of Shakespeare’s well-loved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth. A London Dream celebrates and champions music and musicians, placing them at the center of the production, driving the pulse of the narrative, observing, and punctuating key moments with intimate cameos. The film is available on Sky on demand for subscribers and will be repeated throughout the year. Please visit www.asmf.org/alondondream for the most up-to-date Mozart screening information.
The 2022/23 season will see the Academy continue to frequently appear at London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields, including joining forces with St Martin’s Voices for Christmas and Easter and an autumn performance of Mozart’s Requiem and appearances with Johannes Moser and Avi Avital. Internationally, the autumn/winter 2022 season started with a tour of South America and Italy with Joshua Bell, then joining pianist Jan Lisiecki in Helsinki in September. The Academy Chamber String Ensemble returned to the U.S. for a 10-date autumn tour after a performance at St Martin-in-the-Fields. The Academy concluded a European tour with Joshua Bell with a performance at Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Find out more about supporting the work of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields at asmf.org/support
In 2011, Bell was named Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, succeeding Sir Neville Marriner, who formed the orchestra in 1959. Bell’s history with the Academy dates back to 1986, when he first recorded the Bruch and Mendelssohn concertos with Mariner and the orchestra. Bell has since directed the orchestra on several albums, including Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Voice of the Violin, For the Love of Brahms, and most recently, Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, which was nominated for a 2019 Grammy® Award.
In summer 2020, PBS presented Joshua Bell: At Home With Music, a nationwide broadcast produced entirely in lockdown, directed by Tony and Emmy award winner Dori Berinstein. The program included core classical repertoire as well as new arrangements of beloved works, including a West Side Story medley. The special features guest artists Larisa Martínez, Jeremy Denk, Peter Dugan, and Kamal Khan. In August 2020, Sony Classical released the companion album to the special, Joshua Bell: At Home With Music.
Bell has been active in commissioning new works from living composers and has premiered works by John Corigliano, Edgar Meyer, Behzad Ranjbaran and the Nicholas Maw violin concerto, for which his recording received a Grammy® award.
Bell has also collaborated with artists across a multitude of genres. He has partnered with peers including Renée Fleming, Chick Corea, Regina Spektor, Wynton Marsalis, Chris Botti, Anoushka Shankar, Frankie Moreno, Josh Groban, and Sting, among others. In 2019, Bell joined his longtime friends and musical partners, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk, for a ten-city American trio tour; the trio recorded Mendelssohn’s piano trios at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, slated for release next season. Following Bell’s second collaboration with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Maestro Tsung Yeh in 2018, an upcoming album release features Bell as soloist alongside traditional Chinese instruments performing Western repertoire and the Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto, one of the most renowned violin works in Chinese cultural heritage.
In 1998, Bell partnered with composer John Corigliano and recorded the soundtrack for the film The Red Violin, which elevated Bell to a household name and garnered Corigliano an Academy Award. Since then, Bell has appeared on several other film soundtracks, including Ladies in Lavender (2004) and Defiance (2008). In 2018-19, Bell commemorated the 20th anniversary of The Red Violin (1998), bringing the film with live orchestra to various festivals and the New York Philharmonic.
Bell has also appeared three times as a guest star on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and made numerous appearances on the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle. Bell is featured on a total of six Live From Lincoln Center specials, as well as a PBS Great Performances episode, “Joshua Bell: West Side Story in Central Park.”
In August 2021, Bell announced his new partnership with Trala, the tech-powered violin learning app, which Bell will work with to develop a unique music education curriculum. Bell maintains active involvement with Education Through Music and Turnaround Arts, which provide instruments and arts education to children who may not otherwise 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 received the 2019 Glashütte Original MusicFestivalAward, presented in conjunction with the Dresden Music Festival, for his commitment to arts education.
Bell’s interest in technology led him to partner with Embertone, the leading virtual instrument sampling company, on the Joshua Bell Virtual Violin, a sampler created for producers, engineers, artists, and composers. Bell also collaborated with Sony on the Joshua Bell VR experience. Featuring Bell performing with pianist Sam Haywood in full 360-degrees VR, the software is available on Sony PlayStation 4 VR.
As an exclusive Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 albums, garnering Grammy®, Mercury®, Gramophone and OPUS KLASSIK awards. Bell’s 2019 Amazon Originals new Chopin Nocturne arrangement was the first classical release of its kind on Amazon Music. Bell’s 2016 release, For the Love of Brahms, features recordings with the Academy, Steven Isserlis, and Jeremy Denk. Bell’s 2013 album with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, featuring Bell directing Beethoven’s Fourth and Seventh symphonies, debuted at No. 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, presented a Man With The Violin family concert with the Seattle Symphony.
Born in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell began the violin at age 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 six Grammy® awards, and received the 2007 Avery Fisher Prize. He has also received the 2003 Indiana Governor’s 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.”
Bell has performed for three American presidents and the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He participated in former president Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ first cultural mission to Cuba, joining Cuban and American musicians on a 2017 Live from Lincoln Center Emmy-nominated PBS special, Joshua Bell: Seasons of Cuba, celebrating renewed cultural diplomacy between Cuba and the United States.
Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin.