Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Joshua Bell, Cadogan Hall, London
Carole Cerasi, Foundling Museum, London

Former teen virtuoso Joshua Bell has an orchestra all of his own to play with, but are two hands really enough?

The first London concert of Joshua Bell's tenure as director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields was a puzzle. The orchestra has been so good for so long that it is in danger of being taken for granted. Having kept its head through the period instruments revolution, its sound is as clear and true as it was 30 years ago, its phrasing a little sharper and crisper. In appointing a violinist known for his peerless technique and glossy tone as the successor to Sir Neville Marriner, ASMF is making a statement. But in a programme that celebrated both the pinnacle of ASMF's international fame under Marriner in the soundtrack to Milos Forman's film Amadeus and Bell's breakthrough as a teen virtuoso, it seemed he has more to learn from his orchestra than they do from him.

Listen to today's ASMF and it is apparent that each section of the orchestra not only knows its part but knows the parts of the other sections and how they interact. Seated in the leader's chair, Bell set a smart pace for Mozart's Little G Minor Symphony (K183), all razored strings and throaty horns, with a verdant trio in the choppy minuet. This and Beethoven's Fourth Symphony predate the job description of conductor and work perfectly well without one, though there has to be more sense of a unifying imagination than a generalised brightness of tone, flamboyant timpani and a fast fourth movement. When Bell lifted his bow from the string, circling vaguely in the direction of this or that woodwind motif, it might as well have been a washing-up brush. No harm was done, but neither was there any positive effect.

Box office aside, Bruch's Violin Concerto No 1 was a riskier proposition as the points when orchestral direction is most needed are those when the soloist is otherwise occupied. Romantic concertos are too heavily scored to be co-ordinated by eye contact. Far from liberated, Bell sounded as contained as ever. What was missing was a sense of insight, a new perspective on a work he has been playing since childhood. After decades of concentrating on producing the highest and sweetest notes, ASMF's new music director must get to know the cellos and the basses and work his way up from the bottom of the orchestra. There's more to music than melody, and more to leading than pointing a bow at the bassoons.

Carole Cerasi's London Handel Festival recital at the Foundling Museum traced a century of close correspondence and distant admiration in the keyboard music of Handel and his circle. Here was music of orchestral ambition and colour (Handel's B flat and D major Suites and Telemann's E flat Overture), music that sang with the chaste voice of a church organ (Buxtehude's Ciaccona in E minor), that stretched form, tonality and technique (Scarlatti's G major and G minor Sonatas), that paid homage to Handel (Rameau's Gavotte and Doubles in A minor) and inspired him (Zachow's Suite in B minor). In the most still and seductive material, Cerasi disarms the hair-trigger keys and high-maintenance quills of the harpsichord, playing as though she were touching the strings. Elsewhere, her playing is muscular and theatrical. Mozart, only three years old when Handel died, essayed the "baroque" in his gawky Little Gigue in G, a whoopee cushion of a work to close the concert, but a tribute nonetheless.

Classical choice

Andris Nelsons conducts Sarah Connolly, Toby Spence, James Rutherford and the CBSO and chorus in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, at Birmingham's Symphony Hall (Thu). David Bates and La Nuova Musica present the 1712 version of Handel's intimate Arcadian romance, Il pastor fido, at London's St George's, Hanover Square (Fri).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week