Romance: It happens here: A Night in Russia, That's how the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has billed this evening's concert.
always my pleasure to enter Heinz Hall seating area, meandering through
multitudes of patrons mingling or searching for their seats, each of us
as anxious as the other to experience the upcoming performance. After a
prolonged period of cacophonous warm-up, the first selection was about
Appearing on stage were conductor Krzysztof Urbański and Noah Bendix-Balgley and immediately they commence the first selection: Khachaturian:
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. I noticed the first movement
had frequent changes in tempo. Mr. Bendix-Balgley was impressive, this
is an excellent concerto for him to show off his extensive
The first movement I noticed an orchestra melody solo
and another counterpoint. Then followed a exuberant intermezzo solo.
Mr. Bendix-Balgley was seemingly able to achieve robust, stirring sounds
of harmony with only his violin. As the movement progressed, at times
there was allegro and others softly rejoined melody. I noticed a
vigorous descent from the orchestra, then tentative uplifting
contemplative passages replete with the aforementioned romance.
taking some time to re-tune his violin (the first movement was a
complete workout for him and this instrument), the second movement
began. I could hear the clear soft solo tones from his violin, yet later
there were a few hints of slight dissonance, perhaps built into the
composition, but the full tones that followed, accompanied by a flirting
flute ruled the texture. Orchestra up tempo brought loud momentary
volume followed by a passage with low-pitched violas only, a Russian
sound deeply textured.
Soon the recognizable third
movement came with robust melodic form demanding bravado. All together
an extremely well present concerto, which I fully enjoyed. After a
standing ovation, for encore he played a little tune he called Yismekhu.
I hadn't heard of it before, so I asked him how to spell it at
intermission where he was signing autographs. I'm glad he is still
around with the Pittsburgh Symphony for now, after recently being
appointed 1st Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, I wasn't sure.
intermission came one of my favorite symphonic creations of all time -
Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by Ravel and written for piano
originally by Mussorgsky. First, though, was a presentation with
Cunningham and conductor Krzysztof Urbański, describing differences
between the original piano versus the Ravel orchestrated versions. This
included small demonstrations so that we could actually hear the
differences. I had never heard the piano version before, and it was
amazing in two respects. First, the piano rendition was amazing.
Second, the way that Ravel could transform each part, ascribing
different instruments to just the right parts and components, bringing
it all together into an amazing congruous whole, now that was impressive
As for the pictures, these photos were taken by my friend Miki Sarkozi
before the concert and after intermission. The string ensemble appeared prior to
the concert, they were students or alumni of Grove City College and played quite well.