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American violinist and Berlin Philharmonic Concertmaster, Noah Bendix-Balgley joins the ASO in August, and chats with us about his take on Brahms’s monumental Violin Concerto and who he’d love to invite for dinner…

Can you tell us a little more about the piece you’ll be performing in our Glorious Brahms concert?
I love performing the Brahms Violin Concerto. Brahms's music has such an amazing combination of power, warmth, and structure. I believe this concerto is the ultimate romantic violin concerto. This piece has played an important role in my career as well. I’ve played it at a number of international competitions that I’ve competed in around the world, including the Queen Elisabeth Competition finals in Brussels. And I played the Brahms Concerto at my audition for the Berlin Philharmonic.

Violinist BronisÅ‚aw Huberman described Brahms’s Violin Concerto as “a concerto for violin against the orchestra — and the violin wins”. What’s your take on this?
The piece is certainly challenging both technically and physically. It is a like a large symphony with a solo violin part. Often the orchestra actually plays the melodies and the solo violin comments, engages, and challenges the orchestra.

The great Spanish virtuoso and composer Pablo de Sarasate famously refused to play Brahms’s Violin Concerto because in the second movement the solo violin does not enter for the first three minutes, and the principal oboe plays the most beautiful melody in the piece – not the solo violin!

How do you sustain your concentration to play this monumental 40 minute piece?
One must conserve some energy in the mammoth first movement, since a lot of the most challenging technical passages occur in the Finale. But with experience performing the piece, one starts to feel more comfortable. However, I think part of the character of this concerto is in fact that struggle to overcome the immensity of this composition.

If you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would it be and why?
Perhaps dinner with Jerry Seinfeld – it would certainly be funny and entertaining.

Do you still get nervous?
Occasionally, when a concert situation is particularly stressful, but generally I feel quite comfortable on stage, and I always try to channel my nerves and adrenaline towards something productive creatively in my performance. 

What are you looking forward to most about visiting Australia and Adelaide?
I have wanted to visit Australia for a long time, and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the sights, in particular exploring nature, as I love getting outdoors. I've heard only wonderful things about Adelaide, so I can't wait to visit.

Any other fun facts you can tell us about you?
I'm a sports fan. I follow baseball and basketball primarily. I also enjoy hiking and downhill skiing. In addition to classical music, I play traditional klezmer (Jewish music), and enjoy jamming in klezmer bands. And I love good food! When I visit a new place, I always look for great restaurants and local specialties.

First Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic since 2014, Noah Bendix-Balgley was a Laureate of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2009 and won third prize and a special prize for creativity at the 2008 Long-Thibaud competition in Paris.

He has appeared as soloist with orchestras such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, National Orchestra of Belgium, and I pomeriggi musicali (Milan). Performances so far this year have included guest concertmaster with the Pittsburgh Symphony on tour in Europe,  soloist with the North Carolina Symphony in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (for which he has composed his own cadenzas), and a trio concert in the Tokyo Spring Festival.

A keen chamber musician Noah Bendix-Balgley has performed with artists such as Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet, Emanuel Ax, and Colin Currie. He has recently joined  with Ray Chen, Amihai Grosz and Stephan Koncz to form a new quartet, Made in Berlin. Festivals at which he has appeared include Verbier, Sarasota and Chamber Music Connects the World in Kronberg, Germany.

Bendix-Balgley was Concertmaster of the Pittsburg Symphony from 2011-2015. His Pittsburgh debut recital was named the ‘Best Classical Concert of 2012’ by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He also performed his own version of The Star-Spangled Banner before 39,000 fans at the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day at PNC Park.

Noah Bendix-Balgley was born in Asheville, North Carolina and began playing violin at age four. At nine, he played for Yehudi Menuhin. He graduated from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and the Munich Hochschule. In his spare time he plays klezmer music and has recently premiered his own klezmer concerto, Fidl-Fantazye, with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony. Noah Bendix-Balgley plays a Cremonese violin made in 1732 by Carlo Bergonzi.

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra first performed this concerto on 31 July 1947 with conductor Joseph Post and soloist Isaac Stern, and most recently on 17-18 June 2011 with Arvo Volmer and Tasmin Little.

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra first performed this symphony on 7-9 July 1955 under conductor Eugene Goossens, and most recently on 8-9 April 2011 with Arvo Volmer.

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra first performed the Overture from The Bartered Bride on 17 January 1942 under conductor William Cade, and most recently on 4 June 2014 under the direction of Howard Shelley.

This article was written by ASO Publicist Kate Lees and posted by Michelle Robins, Publications & Communications Coordinator, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Glorious Brahms

Fri 05 Aug 8pm & Sat 06 Aug 6.30pm
Adelaide Town Hall




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