Sir Neville Marriner
As the Academy of St Martin in the Fields continues on into its sixth decade, now under its recently appointed (and only second) music director, Joshua Bell, this collection provides a worthwhile reminder of its length of service and the range of its founder, Sir Neville Marriner. His launch of the ensemble back in 1959 was timely: a leading orchestral violinist and member of the London Symphony Orchestra, he had the pick of London’s players, and his initiative in reviving music by Handel and Bach fuelled the period-instrument movement. Despite their use of modern instruments and vibrato, Academy of St Martin in the Fields’s music-making here is clean and decisive, their unhurried account of the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba spry and animated.
The later extracts are all filmed at the Proms, with Marriner now conducting rather than directing. Neither Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony nor Benjamin Britten’s
Les illuminations, both from a 1983 event, are exceptional accounts, despite soloist Anthony Rolfe Johnson’s lucidity in the latter. But they are enjoyable performances, while Marriner’s 1975 version of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge is both skilful and incisive.