Recital? More a tour de force

Noah Bendix-Balgley

“Recital” sounds so formal, like a recitation of facts or demonstration of knowledge. As it turns out, a recital at the symphony is much more — a transcendent experience.

I hadn’t attended a recital at the PSO before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turns out, a recital is a very different experience than an orchestral concert. The stage, first: nearly empty with just a few items set front and center — in this case, the symphony’s grand piano and a microphone, a chair. It’s daunting to imagine standing solo on that stage, facing the Heinz Hall audience.

Second, the audience itself: a bit smaller than a subscription concert, but also a slightly different flavor to it. I recognized many of the orchestra members in the audience, chatting with each other and with patrons before the performance, and there seemed more than the usual number of groups of students, each accompanied by a teacher-ish person. Once the recital started, this audience had no uncertainty about when to be silent and when to applaud. A knowledgable crowd.

And then, most important, the performance itself. Noah Bendix-Balgley was wonderfully stunning, from the infinite variations and sheer challenge of the Bach chaconne, to the drama of the Beethoven sonata, to the quite modern Bloch, Prokofiev, and Ravel pieces in the second half. We were treated to two encores as well, including a seductive interpretation of Gershwin’s “Ain’t Necessarily So.” Such a treat on a warm summer’s evening.

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