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Classical Notes

After Bell bows out

Posted at 3:33 PM on May 15, 2007 by Don Lee

Thursday night marks the beginning of the end for Joshua Bell as a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra artistic partner. He'll perform with the orchestra in concerts both this weekend and next.

Bell's was just about the first name on the lips of SPCO officials in 2004 when they announced that they were replacing their full-time music director (Andreas Delfs) with a group of five occasional collaborators to both plan programs and perform in them. The SPCO saw Bell's "star quality" as an obvious advantage, and I suspect ticket sales for his appearances here have proven that thinking right.

Who's left to carry on?

Three of the other original artistic partners, all conductors, have agreed to extensions: Nicholas McGegan through 2008-9, Douglas Boyd through 2009-10 and Roberto Abbado (who signed on in 2004 but didn't start till 2005) through 2010-11. Pianist Stephen Prutsman wrapped up his commitment this season.

Two newcomers are grabbing lots of attention. Pianist Pierre Laurent Aimard, who came on board in February, can do no wrong as far as The New York Times is concerned. And the supreme Dawn Upshaw will show how a singer can manage the artistic partner role. Her three-season stint with the SPCO begins next January 18.