Violinist returns to IU with delightful concert of musical

Violinist returns to IU with delightful concert of musical 2/1/2013
Peter Jacobi, Bloomington Herald-Times

It was a short return to his academic home for Noah Bendix-Balgley this week. The violinist, who received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2006 following studies with Mauricio Fuks, offered a master class on Monday and a recital in Auer Hall on Wednesday evening.

During Wednesday’s concert, this young artist, already distinguishing himself as concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, showed himself to be a mature recitalist as well. He displayed absolute assurance throughout a program of significant challenges: sonatas from three centuries by Tartini, Beethoven and Debussy, plus the Schubert Fantasy in C Major. His technique never faltered. His ability to give his instrument expressive tonal qualities was exemplary. His penchant for producing beautiful sounds was pronounced. His musicianship, the ability to achieve an approach to each work that suited, was unquestionable.

In all that he did, Bendix-Balgley had a remarkably astute partner in Chi-Yi Chen, a faculty pianist who understands when, as in Giuseppe Tartini’s “Devil’s Trill” Sonata, to be the accompanist and when, as in the Schubert, to become a co-star.

The Tartini opened the program. Bendix-Balgley played it as most violinists do these days, not as a mid-18th century product but with the vibrato and gusto that marks 19th century Romantic era traditions. Such a choice might be disapproved of in certain quarters, but the music does work terribly well as a showpiece, both because of its lovely melodies and the “trill” and thrill elements prominent in the score. Wednesday’s performance was a delight.

As was that of Beethoven’s G Major Sonata, Opus 30, Number 3, a genial work written in 1802, tuneful, graceful, and — if played as Bendix-Balgley did — ultimately wow-producing for the speed generated for the concluding Allegro vivace; the speed one heard was Olympian.

Debussy’s G Minor Violin Sonata, his final composition, written in 1917 when he was terminally ill, has, to the contrary, no aura of sad finality about it. The music is lively, sometimes whimsical, often dazzling; it is perfumed, too, as if ready for a Parisian night out on the town. Bendix- Balgley and Chen made the trip an adventure one wanted to share.

The Schubert Fantasy, which ended the concert, beckons its interpreters to let go, to allow their instruments to sing, dance, show off. At the same time, the musicians must also remember this is happy Schubertian music and, therefore, to be performed lyrically and felicitously. Wednesday’s collaboration, one is pleased to report, featured all of the above. Rightfully, the audience cheered.

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