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Bell succeeds Marriner at St Martin in the Fields

Neville Marriner is to stand down from Academy of St Martin in the Fields, after naming American violin star Joshua Bell as music director of the renowned chamber orchestra.
American violinist Joshua Bell will be the second music director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Neville Marriner is to stand down from Academy of St Martin in the Fields, after naming American violin star Joshua Bell as music director of the London chamber orchestra.

Marriner, 87, helped found the world-renowned ensemble in 1958 and his name is synonymous with the orchestra. He will retain the title of life president.

Bell, 43, is a rising star in the classical  music world, known for his dazzling live performances and the beautiful tone of his recordings. He first played with the academy 25 years ago, at age 18, and has maintained an association with the ensemble.

The Grammy-winning musician came to international prominence at the age of 14, when he made his orchestral debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. He is scheduled to play in Toronto on June 11 and 16.

Orchestra's pick begins in September

Bell was the orchestra's choice as music director and is only the second person to fill the role, after Marriner. The post is being sponsored by Siemens.

Although pianist Murray Perahia has served as the academy's  principal guest conductor since 2000, the guiding principle of the ensemble has been to go conductor-less.

Next season, Bell will spend six weeks performing with the academy as a violin soloist and directing from the leader's chair. His term as music director begins in September and lasts three years.

Marriner, a violinist and acclaimed star of the classical music world, has been knighted and earned a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 2009.

"The academy has been the core of my musical life and has given me considerable satisfaction," Marriner said last week as he announced Bell's appointment.

"Since 1986, when Joshua first played with the ensemble, I recognized in him a kindred spirit, and I am sure he will feel the same as I do about the academy."

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