It is not often that a soloist is able to capture an audience’s attention for over two hours, but world-renown violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley, has been doing just that.
On Friday night, Bendix-Balgley, accompanied by pianist Rodrigo Ojeda, filled Heinz Hall with a wide array of music. From the classical sounds of Bach and Beethoven to the gypsy-inspired excitement of Maurice Ravel, Bendix-Balgley and Ojeda worked seamlessly to execute a program that was sure to please the diverse crowd.
Bendix-Balgley revealed a unique relationship to Bach’s Chaconne, played it with boisterous energy and youthful wildness, and dashed with increasingly unleashed force through the solo. Restlessly, he moved like one captive–back and forth in the space between the piano and the microphone. And yet, fascinatingly, he succeeded in transferring his own inner tension onto the audience.
The wondrous Bach Chaconne possesses such technical demands upon the player, indicating a virtuoso violinist was to play it.
After the Chaconne, pianist Rodrigo Ojeda came onto the stage and accompanied Bendix-Balgley in Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7 in C minor for Violin and Piano, Opus 30, No. 2. They could not have blended more perfectly. I often think, when there is an accompanist the audience can overlook the superb part they actually play in accompaniment to the soloist. There were such delightful “conversations” between them that we as the audience were privileged to experience.
After intermission and before the start of the second half, Bendix-Balgley expressed his thanks to the PSO and the community for their support. The recital was a wonderful way to wrap up his first year as Concertmaster.
Ernest Bloch’s Baal Shem, Suite for Violin and Piano, “Three Pictures of Chassidic Life”, started the second half. This piece was quite emotional and passionate, based off of Jewish folk themes.
Sergei Prokofiev’s Five Melodies for Violin and Piano, Opus 35b followed. So many colors and moods blended together in the intricacies the violin had and how the piano’s part locked and fit incredibly perfect together creating such gorgeous and thrilling music.
Bendix-Balgley and Ojeda closed with Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane. Tzigane, being the showpiece that it is, is not incomparable to another showpiece, but it is so full of excitement and twists and variations it almost seems for me incomparable to other pieces, when you look at the virtuosity Ravel has composed here. Tzigane starts off with just the violin for about 3 ½ minutes and the piano enters, creating chaos between the two instrumentalists, and the piece is born into a fascinating frenzy of “planned chaos” and amazingly, dynamic colors and virtuosity is ever-more displayed to the audience through Ojeda and Bendix-Balgley.
Bendix-Balgley delighted the audience by playing two encores. He first played It Ain’t Necessarily So, by Gershwin, arr. by Jascha Heifitz–a challenging piece with much use of double stops and pizzicato that the audience loved. Bendix-Balgley came back to the stage with his violin a second time, eliciting a laugh from the audience, this time to play Nicolo Paganini’s Cantabile. The Cantabile being in a slow introspective tempo it was a terrific contrast to the first encore by Gershwin.
The young artist presented a violin show par excellence with his breathtaking virtuosity, fine dynamic shadings as well as melodic and rhythmic agility. After the final encore he received thunderous final applause and standing ovations.
I was profoundly impressed…I found Bendix-Balgley to be the kind of artist who stretches one’s concept of what is possible technically, musically and intellectually. Two potentially conflicting ideals coexist harmoniously in his playing: an unflagging faithfulness to composer and genre, and the ability to put his own stamp on each piece.