Nothing quite compares to the warming sound of a string orchestra, especially in the hands of virtuoso soloists Bell and Isserlis, and the Academy’s unparalleled ensemble playing. The two Bachs—father and son—offer works of deft craftsmanship, elegance, and heartfelt beauty. There’s more than meets the ear to Mozart’s “little” entertainment, then fast-forward 100 years to the heartfelt devotion of a Russian romantic, and the culmination of this brilliant showcase for some of the most famous and beloved string music ever written.
ACADEMY OF ST MARTIN IN THE FIELDS
JOSHUA BELL, CONDUCTOR & SOLO VIOLINIST
STEVEN ISSERLIS, SOLO CELLIST
J.S. BACH: Violin Concerto in A minor
C.P.E. BACH: Cello Concerto in A major
MOZART: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade for Strings
Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041 (ca. 1720 or ca. 1730)
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)
It was long thought that Bach composed his three extant violin concertos—two for solo violin and one for two violins—while serving as “Court Kapellmeister and Director of the Princely Chamber Musicians” at Anhalt-Cöthen, north of Leipzig, from 1717 to 1723. In 1985, however, Harvard professor and Bach authority Christoph Wolff published evidence that the Concerto in A minor (BWV 1041) and Concerto in D minor for Two Violins (BWV 1043) were probably composed during the years (17291736) that Bach was directing the Leipzig Collegium Musicum, the city’s leading concert-giving organization. The violin is carefully integrated into the texture and melodic working-out of the material in the heroically tragic opening movement of the A minor Concerto, whose formal plan is anchored around the returns of the opening music in the orchestra. In the Adagio, the basses present a repeating theme as the foundation for the soloist’s touching melody. The vivacious finale was inspired by the gigue.
Cello Concerto in A major, H. 439 (1753)
CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH (1714-1788)
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Sebastian’s fifth child and his third (second surviving) son, gained fame with his contemporaries as a composer in the most advanced style of the time, a keyboard player of unsurpassed ability and the author of an important treatise on contemporary performance style, as well as a man of wit, broad education and winning personality. The Cello Concerto in A major is his 1753 arrangement of a concerto written two years before for harpsichord (H. 438). The opening Allegretto is based on a bold, leaping main theme that is shared, in turn, by orchestra and soloist. The Largo con sordino, mesto (“Slow, muted, sad”), written in Bach’s most expressive manner, is music of profound pathos, something that would not have been out of place in a sorrowful cantata by his father. The finale, an almost startling contrast to the slow movement, counters the bustling excitement of its principal subject with occasional legato phrases of more subdued character.
Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525 (1787)
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)
Eine kleine Nachtmusik is at once one of the most familiar yet one of the most mysterious of Mozart’s works. He dated the completed manuscript on August 10, 1787, the day on which he entered it into his catalog of compositions. There is no other contemporary record of the work’s provenance, composition or performance. It was the first piece of the serenade type he had written since the magnificent C minor Wind Octet (K. 388) of 1782, and it seems unlikely that, at a time when he was increasingly mired in debt, he would have returned to the genre without some promise of payment. Indeed, he had to set aside his furious preparations for the October premiere of Don Giovanni in Prague to compose the piece. The simple, transparent style of Eine kleine Nachtmusik, reminiscent of the music of Mozart’s Salzburg years and so different from the rich expression of his later music except for the dances he wrote for the Habsburg court balls, suggests that it was designed for amateur performance, perhaps at the request of some aristocratic Viennese player of limited musical ability. Though sunny and cheerful throughout, when seen in the light of its immediate musical companions of 1787—Don Giovanni, A major Violin Sonata (K. 526), C major and G minor String Quintets—Eine kleine Nachtmusik takes on an added depth of expression as much for what it eschews as for what it contains.
Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48 (1879-1880)
PETER ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
In 1879, Tchaikovsky’s publisher, Peter Jurgenson, requested that his client devise some festive strains of celebratory nature to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of Czar Alexander II. The project was too important for Tchaikovsky to refuse, so he set to work composing a programmatic overture based on some popular themes that would depict one of Mother Russia’s proudest moments—the defeat of Napoleon at Moscow. “The overture will be very noisy,” Tchaikovsky warned his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, in a letter dated October 22, 1880. “I wrote it without much warmth or enthusiasm; therefore it has no great artistic value.” He called the piece, simply, 1812 Overture. As though some compensatory psychic apparatus had switched on while he was writing 1812, Tchaikovsky simultaneously created a delightful work on an intimate scale for string orchestra, a score of geniality and grace and nearly Mozartian sensitivity—the Serenade for Strings. “The Serenade,” Tchaikovsky confided in a letter to his patroness, Mme. von Meck, “I wrote from an inward impulse; I felt it deeply and venture to hope that this work is not without artistic qualities.”
The opening Pezzo [‘piece’] in forma di Sonatina is a sonata form without a development section. The following movement is one of Tchaikovsky’s best-known waltzes. The Elégie touches on the work’s deepest emotions. The finale, Théma russe, is based on a Volga River work song and a folk song from the Kolomna district, near Moscow.
JOSHUA BELL, director and violin
With a career spanning more than 30 years, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor, Academy of St Martin in the Fields Music Director Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era.
STEVEN ISSERLIS, cello
Acclaimed worldwide for his profound musicianship and technical mastery, British cellist Steven Isserlis enjoys a distinguished career as a soloist, chamber musician, educator, author and broadcaster.
JOSHUA BELL, director and violin
With a career spanning more than 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor, Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. An exclusive Sony Classical artist, he has recorded more than 40 CDs garnering Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone and Echo Klassik awards, and is a recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize, as well as the Lumiere Prize for his work in the sphere of Virtual Reality. Named the Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 2011, he is the only person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958, and recently renewed his contract through 2020. In 2016, Sony released Bell’s album For the Love of Brahms with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk, followed in 2017 by the Joshua Bell Classical Collection, a 14 CD set of Bell’s Sony recording highlights from the past 20 years.
Summer 2017 saw Joshua Bell perform at the BBC Proms with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Verbier Festival, as Artist In Residence at the Edinburgh International Festival and – in the US - at Tanglewood, Ravinia, and the Mostly Mozart Festival. In the 2017/18 season in the US, Bell takes part in the New York Philharmonic’s celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, performing Bernstein’s Serenade led by Alan Gilbert, and also appears with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra among others. His North American recital tours take him to Carnegie Hall, Chicago’s Symphony Center and Washington D.C.’s Strathmore Center. Highlights in Europe include appearances as soloist with the Vienna Symphony and Danish National Symphony; as director and soloist with the Orchestre National de Lyon; and recitals in Paris, Zurich, Geneva, Bologna, Milan and London. With the Academy of St Martin in the Fields he will tour widely including in the United Kingdom, United States and Europe, featuring performances in London, New York, San Francisco, Reykjavik and at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.
Convinced of the value of music as a diplomatic and educational tool, Bell participated in President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ first cultural mission to Cuba. He is also involved in Turnaround Arts, another project implemented by the Committee and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts which provides arts education to low-performing elementary and middle schools.
Joshua Bell performs on the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin and uses a late 18th century French bow by François Tourte.
Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
STEVEN ISSERLIS, cello
As a concerto soloist he appears regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, recent engagements including performances with the Berlin Philharmonic, Budapest Festival, Philharmonia, Cleveland, Minnesota, Zurich Tonhalle and NHK Symphony Orchestras. He gives recitals every season in major musical centres, working with pianists such as Jeremy Denk, Kirill Gerstein, Stephen Hough, Alexander Melnikov, Olli Mustonen, Mikhail Pletnev, Sir Andras Schiff, Connie Shih, Ferenc Rados and Dénes Várjon; and plays with many of the world’s leading chamber orchestras, including period-instrument ensembles. Unusually, he also directs chamber orchestras from the cello, in classical programmes.
Highlights of the 15/16 season include a survey of the complete Bach Cello Suites at the Wigmore Hall and elsewhere; recital programmes with Ian Bostridge, Stephen Hough, Robert Levin and Richard Egarr; a special recital with Sir Andras Schiff at the Beethovenhaus in Bonn performed on fortepiano and Beethoven’s own cello (which was last played in public more than 50 years ago); his appointment as Guest Artistic Leader of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra; a major European tour with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Joshua Bell; and the world premiere of the orchestral version of Thomas Adès’s Lieux retrouvés in Lucerne, with the composer himself conducting.
As a chamber musician he has curated series for many of the world’s most famous festivals and venues, including the Wigmore Hall, the 92nd St Y in New York, and the festivals of Salzburg and Verbier. These specially devised programmes have included ‘In the Shadow of War’, a major four-part series for the Wigmore Hall to mark the centenary of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War; explorations of Czech music; the teacher-pupil line of Saint-Saens, Faure and Ravel; the affinity of the cello and the human voice; varied aspects of Robert Schumann’s life and music; and the music of Serge Taneyev (teacher of Steven’s grandfather, Julius Isserlis). For these concerts Steven is joined by a regular group of friends who include the violinists Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank and Isabelle Faust, violist Tabea Zimmermann, and clarinettist Michael Collins.
He takes a strong interest in authentic performance, and in addition to working with many of the foremost period instrument orchestras he frequently gives recitals with harpsichord and fortepiano. Together with Robert Levin, and using original or replica pianos from the early nineteenth century, he has performed and recorded Beethoven’s complete music for cello and piano; and with Richard Egarr he has performed and recorded the viola da gamba sonatas of J.S. Bach as well as sonatas by Handel and Scarlatti.
He is also a keen exponent of contemporary music and has premiered many new works, including John Tavener’s The Protecting Veil (as well as several other pieces by Tavener), Thomas Adès’s Lieux retrouvés, Stephen Hough’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Left Hand (Les Adieux), Wolfgang Rihm’s Concerto in One Movement, David Matthews’ Concerto in Azzurro, works for cello and piano by Olli Mustonen, and For Steven by György Kurtág.
Writing and playing for children is another major interest. Steven Isserlis’ books for children about the lives of the great composers – Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and its sequel, Why Handel Waggled his Wig – are published by Faber and Faber. He has also written the text for three musical stories for children – Little Red Violin, Goldiepegs and the Three Cellos and Cindercella – with music by Oscar-winning composer Anne Dudley; these are published by Universal Edition in Vienna. He has also given many concerts for children, for several years presenting a regular series at the 92nd Street Y in New York. As an educator Steven Isserlis gives frequent masterclasses all around the world, and for the past eighteen years he has been Artistic Director of the International Musicians’ Seminar at Prussia Cove in Cornwall, where his fellow-professors include Sir Andras Schiff, Thomas Adès and Ferenc Rados. As a writer and broadcaster he contributes regularly to publications including Gramophone, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, has guest edited The Strad magazine, and makes regular appearances on BBC Radio including on the Today programme, on Soul Music, as guest presenter of two editions of Saturday Classics, and as writer and presenter of a documentary about the life of Robert Schumann.
His diverse interests are reflected in an extensive and award-winning discography. His recording of the complete Solo Cello Suites by J.S. Bach for Hyperion met with the highest critical acclaim, and was Gramophone’s Instrumental Disc of the Year and Critic’s Choice at the Classical Brits. Other recent releases include Prokofiev and Shostakovich concertos with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Paavo Järvi; Dvorak Cello Concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Daniel Harding; the complete works for cello by Beethoven with Robert Levin on fortepiano, selected for the Deutsche SchallplattenPreis; and recital discs with Richard Egarr, Stephen Hough, Thomas Adès and (for BIS) a Grammy-nominated album of sonatas by Martinů with Olli Mustonen. Future releases for Hyperion include the Elgar and Walton concertos, alongside works by Gustav and Imogen Holst, with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Paavo Järvi.
The recipient of many awards, Steven Isserlis’s honours include a CBE in recognition of his services to music, and the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau. He is also one of only two living cellists featured in Gramophone’s Hall of Fame.
He gives most of his concerts on the Marquis de Corberon (Nelsova) Stradivarius of 1726, kindly loaned to him by the Royal Academy of Music.
Photo: Jean Baptiste Millot
Need help planning your visit to the Vail Valley? We've got you covered- from travel recommendations, to lodging and dining options, we want your entire visit to be top notch.Learn More
Where are the performances held?
Bravo! Vail orchestral concerts take place at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater (GRFA) located at 530 S. Frontage Rd E Vail, CO 81657
What time do performances begin?
Concerts generally start promptly at 6pm (except for movie screenings which start at 7:30 or 8pm). The GRFA lobby opens 90 minutes prior to performances and gates open 60 minutes prior to performances. Please be sure to give yourself plenty of time to park and get into the venue; latecomers will be admitted at an appropriate interval, escorted by volunteers from the Bravo! Vail Guild.
How long do concerts last?
Concerts generally last under two hours. Please check performance pages beginning in April for specific running times.
How do I buy tickets?
Tickets, subscriptions, passes,and gift certificates may be ordered in the following ways:
• Phone 877.812.5700 or Fax 970.827.5707
• Mail or in-person Bravo! Vail 2271 N Frontage Rd W Suite C, Vail, CO 81657
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ticket delivery methods are Mail, Print at Home, and Will Call. Bravo! Vail accepts all major credit cards (Amex, Visa, MasterCard and Discover), cash, and checks with proper identification. There is a $2 order fee per ticket.
What are the Box Office hours?
Bravo! Vail Box Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm. During the Festival hours include Saturday & Sunday from 10am to 4pm. The Bravo! Vail Box Office can be reached at 877.812.5700.
The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater box office is open from 11am until concert start time (5pm on days with no concerts) beginning mid-June. Tickets for upcoming performances may be purchased on-site during concert intermissions.
Where is the Will Call window?
Will Call tickets may be picked up at the Box Office located to the right of the main entrance lobby. The Box Office is open 11am to concert start time beginning mid-June. Will Call tickets may also be picked up during concert intermissions.
Does Bravo! Vail offer group pricing?
Group sales discounts of up to 15% for groups of 15 or more are available to select concerts. Please call 970.827.4316 for more information, or view the Group Sales page.
What if I buy tickets and cannot attend?
All sales are final. If you are unable to attend your concert, please call the Box Office at 877.812.5700 at least two hours prior to the concert to donate the tickets for resale or drop them off at the venue so seats can be filled by another music lover. You will receive a ticket release receipt in the mail. If you wish to give tickets to a friend, you may call the Box Office to leave them in your friend's name at Will Call.
What if I misplace or forget to bring my tickets?
The Box Office can reprint your tickets if needed.
Where are seating options for people with disabilities?
Per the American Disability Act (ADA), the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater is accessible to individuals with disabilities. ADA seating is available in Section 1 Row L and Section 4 Row O Premium Aisle, Premium, Reserved, and Saver sections which reflect all reserved seating zones and prices.
A limited number of ADA General Admission Lawn seats are available for sale behind Section 2; you must have a designated ADA lawn seat ticket in order to sit in this area.
By purchasing an ADA seat, you are stating that you require an ADA seat and if purchased fraudulently, you may be subject to relocation.
If you need further assistance purchasing ADA seating, please call the Box Office at 877.812.5700.
What should I bring to the concert?
If you have lawn seating at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, you should plan to bring a blanket to sit on, sunglasses, and a hat or visor. Lawn chairs with legs under 4 inches tall are allowed. Vail weather can be unpredictable so rain gear and a jacket are recommended. Concessions are available at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, but you are welcome to bring food and non-alcoholic sealed drinks. Per Colorado State Law, you may not bring outside alcoholic beverages into any Bravo! Vail venue. For your safety and the safety of all of our guests, backpacks, bags, purses, picnic baskets, and coolers will be checked upon entry to Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The following articles are not allowed:
• Alcoholic beverages (picnics and commercially sealed non-alcoholic beverages are permitted, and concessions with food and alcohol sales are available at the venue)
• Bikes, inline skates, scooters, and skateboards
• Cameras and recording devices
• Lawn chairs with legs higher than 4 inches (lawn chair rentals are $10)
What food and beverages are available for purchase at GRFA?
Popcorn, candy, burgers, sandwiches, and salads are available for purchase at concessions inside GRFA. A full bar is also available to purchase beer, wine, and alcohol. All major credit cards and cash are accepted for payment. In the pavilion seating, we recommend eating prior to the concert or at intermission.
Food and commercially sealed non-alcoholic beverages may be brought into the GRFA.
What if it rains?
Concerts take place rain or shine. GRFA is an open-air venue. Refunds are not given due to weather unless a concert is canceled in its entirety with no performance rescheduled.
What should I wear?
There is no dress code for concerts — wear what makes you most comfortable! You can dress formally, or opt for jeans and a t-shirt, or anything in between. Just one word of advice: while the summers in Colorado are perfect, the evenings often bring rain showers and cooler temps. We recommend being prepared for both.
What if I lose something at the concert?
Check with the GRFA box office for lost items at intermission or call 970.748.8497.
What are some general rules of concert etiquette?
Above all, we want you to have a beautiful, musically rich concert experience. We ask that all concertgoers help to ensure a mutually enjoyable evening by silencing all devices such as cell phones and watch alarms. Please take time to turn these off prior to performances, so they don’t disrupt musicians and other patrons. Likewise, please limit conversations and other noisy activities during the music, so everyone can enjoy the concert undisturbed. In the pavilion seating, we recommend eating prior to the concert or at intermission.
What else should I know?
Vail is at high elevation so don’t forget to hydrate and use sun protection. Visitors from lower elevations may experience altitude sickness when traveling to and visiting Vail. Be sure to drink water to allow your body to acclimate to the change in oxygen levels.
What if I still have questions?
Please don’t hesitate to contact the Box Office at 877.812.5700 Monday–Friday 9am–4pm MST with any questions you have.