Week in Review: Inspiring Performances and Videos, Op. 3: Noah Bendix-Balgley, TwoSet Violin, Nathan Meltzer

September 29, 2020, 4:06 PM · This week brought inspiration from the Jewish observation of Yom Kippur, with cellist Alan Stepansky and 15 Peabody Institute cellists posting an arrangement of Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, as well as Heifetz Institute cellist Manou Magdalena Chakravorty performing selections from Ernest Bloch's "From Jewish Life." George Gershwin's birthday inspired violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley to post an excerpt from "Porgy and Bess," and violinist Nathan Meltzer was joined by his singing puppy to promote his upcoming Dreamstage concert. The TwoSet Violin guys expressed their ongoing astonishment over the accomplishments of the very young South Korean prodigy YoEun Seol. And finally, some words from the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Kennedy Center interview last year with Joyce DiDonato -- about women in music, justice and hope during difficult times.

Opus 3

Happy Birthday Gershwin

Saturday marked the birthday of the great American composer George Gershwin, born in 1898. In celebration, Berlin Philharmonic Concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley posted this excerpt from the opera Porgy and Bess, "Bess, You is my woman now," arranged by Jascha Heifetz. It's just a one-minute excerpt, but I loved all 60 seconds (until it cuts off!). Noah appears to knows the words and truly "sings" it with his fiddle - this does not always happen when instrumentalists play arrangements of vocal pieces!

Notes on a Prodigy

"She crammed into a year, what I did in like five years..." an observation from Brett Yang in this video that TwoSet Violin posted a few days ago about a young violin prodigy. They are talking about the very young South Korean violin student YoEun Seol, whose mother started ">posting videos of her progress in 2014, which she was just two years old. It's actually pretty interesting - they go through her rapid progress and marvel at the unusual ease with which she seems to absorb rhythm, scales, etc.

Brahms and Benji

In this promo that violinist Nathan Meltzer made for his October 4 Dreamstage concert (more here, we not only hear a snippet of Brahms Sonata in D minor with pianist Jun Cho, but if you hang on a full minute, you will meet Nathan's 3-month-old puppy Benji, who also "sings" while Nathan practices. Nathan performs on the famously stolen and recovered 1734 "Totenberg-Ames" Stradivarius - once owned by violinist Roman Totenberg (father of NPR's Nina Totenberg).

Kol Nidrei

Cellist Alan Stepansky and 15 students from his studio at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University perform a beautiful arrangement of Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, Op, 47 (arrangement by David Johnstone). Yom Kippur, which ended Monday, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism, with the central themes of atonement and repentance. Kol Nidrei is the declaration that traditionally begins the Yom Kippur service.

From a Jewish Life

And still on the theme of Yom Kippur, here is a performance of two movements of Ernest Bloch's "From Jewish Life," written in 1924 for the cellist Hans Kindler. At the beginning of the video, cellist Manou Magdalena Chakravorty introduces the piece from her home in Chicago, then performs with Heifetz Institute pianist Yoon Lee - who is in New York City. Bloch said that writing music that expressed his Jewish identity was "the only way in which I can produce music of vitality and significance."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Music

"Music is the one time when my head isn't filled with briefs and opinions. All that is put on a shelf, and I just enjoy." People are still posting remembrances of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and here's one from singer Joyce DiDonato, in an interview she did last November with Ginsburg last at the REACH at the Kennedy Center. Ginsburg goes on to talk about other difficult times and injustices in the history of the United States, offering hope from the progress that was made in her own lifetime.

Week in Review Ideas Welcome

With large-scale concerts and symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, our weekly roundup has switched focus from concert reviews to the many different ways that artists, orchestras and educational institutions are continuing to keep the music going. If you’d like to share links of socially-distanced performances, new performance videos, teaching experiences, or master classes you’ve enjoyed, please do so in the comments or email Laurie for possible inclusion in a later opus.


October 1, 2020 at 08:15 PM · Wonderful week in review. I especially loved Bruch's Kol Nidrei. Thank you!

October 1, 2020 at 09:24 PM · I agree with Joe! The performance of Bruch's Kol Nidrei was simply stunning.

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