The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: An enjoyable collection of short 20th-century pieces
Musicians: Noah Bendix-Balgley (violin) Reiko Hozu (piano)
Composer: Stravinsky (arr. Dushkin), Bloch, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Prokofiev, Ravel

Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, 28-year-old US violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley here offers a thoughtfully chosen selection of short 20th-century works, all written between the First World War and 1950. He opens with a stylish and technically fastidious performance of Stravinsky’s Suite italienne. His feather-light dash through the Tarantella is particularly lovely, underpinned by the blissfully delicate phrasing of pianist Reiko Hozu. His rich, full-bodied tone brings a heady intensity to the fiendishly difficult double-stopped melodies of the Minuetto and finale.

This intensity is also apparent in his passionate reading of Bloch’s Nigun, and Hindemith’s unaccompanied Violin Sonata is beautifully shaped. The playful third-movement pizzicato trips along in dazzling style, and here the bright tone of the recording adds impressive colour and depth to the whole. It’s a shame, then, that booming distortion surfaces briefly in the fourth movement, in a moment of gritty G-string rumbling – elsewhere, the recorded sound is well judged.

Schoenberg’s Phantasy bursts with character and Prokofiev’s Five Melodies are elegant and impassioned. The sumptuous pyrotechnics and romancing of Ravel’s Tzigane make a suitably upbeat finale to this enjoyable disc of shortish pieces, which makes me keen to hear Bendix-Balgley tackle something grander in scale.

Catherine Nelson