Not surprisingly, the group has two recent releases, the most recent being "The Golden Voice." It's a disc of opera arias sung by Joseph Calleja and conducted by Carlo Rizzi. The second release, "Violin Concertos," features Kurt Weill's Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra and Peteris Vasks' "Distant Light" with British violinist Anthony Marwood.
"The disc shows the Academy's strength in more contemporary repertoire from that for which it's perhaps most well-known," the Academy's first violinist Harvey de Souza says of "Violin Concertos."
Formed in 1958 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, an elegant 18th-century church on the east side of London's Trafalgar Square, the Academy originally concentrated on repertoire from the Baroque era and featured some of the finest players in London. Led by Sir Neville Marriner, the group paved the way for the popularity of today's period-instrument ensembles.
Since then, Marriner has become a legend. According to de Souza, he's a true gentleman and wonderful to work with. Famous for his musical prowess, he is also well-known for his wicked sense of humor: When he became music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, Marriner asked in a radio interview that anyone interested in playing a game of cricket come forward. He received more than 300 replies. Most were so good he couldn't compete.
Cricket aside, not many can hold a candle to the Academy. As one of the world's most famous chamber orchestras, it rarely holds auditions and tends to find new players based on recommendation. The ensemble has stopped in Richmond before, and it's no surprise that its upcoming performance is sold-out.
The concert will feature Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 and Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence." The Academy is particularly well-known for its Mozart performances, so "we couldn't let the Mozart anniversary pass without including some Mozart in the program," de Souza says.
To those who regret not getting tickets earlier, don't worry: Just tune the radio to your favorite classical station. Odds are the Academy's playing. It's been estimated that an average of 30 minutes of the Academy's work is broadcast on each classical music radio station in the United States every day of the year.
Or you can hop across the pond. To this day, visitors arrive at St. Martin-in-the-Fields looking for the Academy, although the orchestra performs more often at such venues as Wigmore Hall. So check there. And on the flight over, tune in to your airline's radio selections. Or better yet, watch an in-flight movie. Chances are the Academy's playing. S
The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields performs at the Modlin Center for the Arts Monday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m. The concert is sold-out, but standby tickets may be available. 289-8980.
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