Review: “Noah Bendix-Balgley rocks the Bonn Kammermusiksaal”

Noah Bendix-Balgley rocks the Chamber Music Hall in Bonn

General-Anzeiger Bonn, Bernhard Hartmann, January 26th, 2018

The violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley and his fellow musicians brought enormous temperament and excitement to the Beethoven Week in Bonn. Their Jewish music had everything from classical works to the authentic sound of klezmer.
After violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley played the Nigun movement from Ernest Bloch’s 3- movement Baal Shem Suite to accompaniment by pianist Ohad Ben-Ari, he reported that he had played the same piece at his Bar Mitzvah. He played the rhapsodic improvisatory gestures of its melody with great heart and soul. In the further course of an impressive evening, the audience followed him through the world of Jewish music, from classical works in which its influence could clearly be recognized through to the authentic klezmer sounds of the evening’s rousing finale.
Inspired by Beethoven’s renderings of folk song, the organizers of the Beethoven week explore how art music devotes itself to influences from folk music. The Jewish roots of Gideon Klein’s string trio are clearly recognizable; the 25-year-old composer completed the work in Theresienstadt nine days before being deported to the death camp of Auschwitz. Bendix-Balgley and his fellow musicians Tabea Zimmermann on viola and Stephan Koncz on cello gave a brilliant performance of Klein’s trio, a real gem from its time that shows the composer’s remarkable mastery of giving convincing form to his wealth of musical ideas. The musicians delivered both beautifully crafted effect to the slow movement and infectious temperament and rousing virtuosity to the performance finale.
His other job is with the Berlin Philharmonic…
For violinist Bendix-Balgley, whose primary occupation is being concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, Jewish music is a lifelong passion. And the passion he brings to it is both remarkable, and evident in how the other musicians let themselves be swept up by his spirit. After the Allegro Con Brio from Dimitri Shostakovitch’s Piano Trio in E Major Opus 64, approving whispers went through the audience that then broke into jubilation at the end of the final movement. Bendix-Balgley, Koncz and Ben-Ari played the piece with the kind of unruly musical gusto that one can only achieve when one doesn’t need to give any thought to technical difficulties.
In the second part of the grandiose evening, Bendix-Balgley devoted himself to the Russian composers Joseph Achron (1886-1943), Alexander Krein (1883-1951), and Joel Engel (1868-1927). According to the American violinist, these composers wanted

to create Jewish art music, much as Grieg or Dvorak had done for their own nations. Their results are very listenable and at times virtuosic violin miniatures.
For the original klezmer pieces the end of the program, the audience was asked to contribute to the performance by shouting out a couple of Yiddish expressions.

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