Share This Page

Scotland inspires symphonic treat

| Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, 10:49 p.m.

Music lovers have a special treat this weekend with Nikolaj Znaider on the podium and Noah Bendix-Balgley as violin soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Natural musicality shone in three German romantic classics, achieving a rightness that is rare.

The first half of the concert on Friday night in Heinz Hall was devoted to music inspired by Scotland, both its natural beauty and its lore.

It was apparent from the first pages of Felix Mendelssohn's “The Hebrides Overture” that Znaider was drawing a particularly beautiful sound from the orchestra. He was generous with the middle voices, which makes sense not only in the play of ideas but for richness of sonority.

Znaider led a performance that was astutely drawn for the music's pictorial element and showed real and tasteful appreciation of the beautiful contrasting theme. Some passages were smoother in articulation than expected, but the performance did not lack for drama.

Bendix-Balgley made the most of Max Bruch's “Scottish Fantasy” in showing off his recently acquired 1732 Carlo Bergonzi violin, including the instrument's timbral dimensions.

It was a performance entirely in tune with what we have come to expect from the young concertmaster, above all a singing style of communicative sincerity and spontaneity. His exemplary technique included hitting his high notes without fudging with vibrato — obviously preferable and surprisingly rare.

Znaider was mostly as sympathetic a conductor as one would expect from a musician who played the solo part with the Pittsburgh Symphony in March 2005. However, there were a few lyrical places where the conductor's baton reached the next beat before the soloist.

Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 4 provided a satisfying conclusion built on the virtues that made performances in the first half so rewarding. It was actually paced a bit more urgently than the Mendelssohn but found a good range for the two sides of Schumann's personality. Orchestral balances were wonderful to hear: plenty of brass, for example, but never a moment when any brass instrument was too loud.

Oboist Cynthia deAlmeida and cellist Anne Martindale Williams created a wonderfully fluid color in introducing the main theme of the slower movement. Associate concertmaster Mark Huggins played the lengthy violin solos superbly.

This concert will be repeated at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $30.75 to $124.75. Details: 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.