Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra concert tells many stories
Daniel Meyer admits to allowing himself a “guilty pleasure” for Saturday's concert of the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra.
Directing Edouard Lalo's “Symphonie espagnole” is a job that is more enjoyable than it is difficult, he says, but having a soloist like Noah Bendix-Balgley makes the effort even better.
“Noah is the real deal,” Meyer says. “When I first worked with him, the audience was blown away,”
Bendix-Balgley, 28, concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, seems equally pleased at the thought of the program. He says he likes the “energy and humor” of the piece.
“Of course, I am always looking for new pieces to play,” says the violinist who blends solo performances with his ensemble role. “But Lalo is one of the pieces I am always ready to play.”
The concert also will feature Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, “The Pastorale,” which will be accompanied by projections of images from the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
Along with that will be the “Lyric for Strings” by African-American George Walker, offered in conjunction with February's Black History Month.
The concert is one of storytelling, Meyer says. The Beethoven work is the composer's description of a “stroll in the fields,” he says, and “Lyric for Strings” is an elegy for Walker's late grandmother.
The Lalo piece is taking a look at the music of Spain, Meyer says, but the story it tells is more about one of the violinist for whom he wrote it: Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908).
Meyer says Lalo wrote the piece “to take advantage of the enormous skills” of Sarasate and, in doing that, put together a work that is filled with entertaining melodies and energy.
Those qualities make the piece “not easy for soloists,” Meyer says, but he feels comfortable having Bendix-Balgley in that position.
Meyer says he heard about the violinist several years ago in his work with the Asheville Symphony in North Carolina, which he also directs along with the orchestra in Erie.
“The word on the street,” he says with a laugh, “is that there was this local violinist who you just had to hear. Of course, you get that all the time, but when I heard him, I had to agree.”
Bendix-Balgley soloed in Asheville, the town where he was born, in 2008.
He began playing violin when he was 9 and has won many awards including a special prize for creativity at the 2008 Long-Thibaud International Competition in Paris.
Although Bendix-Balgley's career is greatly defined by his concertmaster post in Pittsburgh, which he took in 2012, he still tries to add solo engagements to his schedule. He has performed in four this season and, in the past, has appeared in concerts from China to Great Britain.
“I agree that the job in Pittsburgh is one that is enviable,” he says, “but I don't want to stop soloing.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.