More about this playlist
For this playlist, 1st concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley has chosen some of his favourite musical experiences since joining the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2014. “These are concerts that featured really important works for me, repertoire that I love,” says the violinist, “or collaborations with wonderful conductors or soloists that stay in my memory very strongly”.
Bendix-Balgley describes his first experience playing under Kirill Petrenko, in 2017, as intensely energetic and emotional. In the conductor’s hands, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the Pathétique, “is devastatingly powerful, yet retains a clarity of structure and balance throughout”. Bendix-Balgley suggests audiences listen for the particularly beautiful transition from the third movement to the finale.
Among the guest conductors included in the playlist is one of Bendix-Balgley’s favourites, Bernard Haitink, featured here with a 2017 performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. The 92-year-old “wonder” Herbert Blomstedt, conducting Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 in 2017, “seems younger and younger each time he returns to conduct the orchestra. His infectious enthusiasm inspires wonderful performances”. Poignantly, the late Mariss Jansons appears in a 2019 concert featuring Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, his last with the Berliner Philharmoniker. “His music-making”, says Bendix-Balgley, “had an urgency and honesty that I will miss greatly.”
Among visiting soloists, Bendix-Balgley singles out a “masterful” 2015 performance of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto by Krystian Zimerman: “His command of timing, sound and structure takes my breath away”. In a 2017 concert, Bendix-Balgley performs the difficult concertmaster solo from the third movement of Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, a depiction of the composer’s wife. The following season, Bendix-Balgley gave his solo debut with the orchestra in Mozart’s buoyant Violin Concerto No. 5, with its famous “Turkish” finale. He conducts from the violin, playing cadenzas he composed for the occasion.
Former chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle appears in a 2016 concert performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, which struck Bendix-Balgley as “one of those wonderful concert nights when everything felt right”. More lightheartedly, a 2015 performance at the Waldbühne, where the Berliner Philharmoniker normally end their season, features film scores by Korngold. The playlist also nods to Bendix-Balgley’s American heritage. “An ambitious, emotional and masterful work by my friend, the great American composer John Adams”, The Gospel According to the Other Mary was written in 2012. The violinist singles out the “gorgeous and haunting Scene 5: Passover” as his favourite movement.
Chief conductor Kirill Petrenko reappears to close the playlist with a startlingly fresh and energetic Beethoven Symphony No. 7 that opened the 2018/19 season. “Kirill Petrenko”, states Bendix-Balgley, “finds so many new aspects in the score to bring out and pushes the orchestra to its very best”.