PSO Concertmasters’, Noah Bendix-Balgley’s Concerto Debut

Having seen Mr. Bendix-Balgley perform solo on more than one occasion since his residency in Pittsburgh as Concertmaster, I was already aware of his impeccable ability to truly make music on the violin, so I was eagerly anticipating his debut with the PSO playing one of my absolutely favorite violin concertos.  His performance showed admirable restraint. His is a virtuosity unencumbered by ostentatious display or overt emotionalism. It was playing of immense beauty, light agility and secure intonation, which never thrust itself forward outside the arena of music-making. The balance between him and the orchestra, appropriate for a concerto in which the soloist at times takes on the role of accompanist, was such that the solo violin was always part of the overall picture. He gave us many sublime moments – firstly I was struck by the impeccable scale work, and crystal clear precision. And the attention to the detail of bow changes was smooth beyond belief. The audience received his performance so well that against “audience etiquette” after the first movement they broke into thunderous applause. The second movement was as angelic as could be. And in the third movement there is a somewhat hidden beauty. By “hidden”, I mean it does not simply reveal itself to the audience, but you must be looking for it. The “it” I have reference to, is an incredibly beautiful duet between the solo violin and the bassoon. Bendix-Balgley composed all the cadenzas, and so beautifully and intricately too, as he worked the themes in, never straying from the structure of the piece. The performance overall left the touching impression of a restrained and rather melancholy perfection – a view of Beethoven’s concerto as unusual as it was affecting. He received and quite fittingly deserved, roaring applause and a standing ovation. I spoke with some friends afterwards, one of whom said, regarding Mr. Bendix-Balgley’s performance, that, “Mr. Bendix-Balgley is a gem, and he is on his way to establishing himself as one of the best concertmaster’s in the country.” I am confident to say we could all agree.

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