ChamberFest Cleveland: listen to Franklin & Diana Cohen
talk about programming and take a tour of The Wine Spot, and
read an interview with violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley
By Mike Telin & Daniel Hathaway
When Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinetist Franklin Cohen and his daughter, Richmond Symphony concertmaster Diana Cohen, were putting together the first edition of ChamberFest Cleveland, they decided to have some good creative fun with themes for the five concerts that run from June 27 through July 1 and take place in four different venues. “Explosive Beginnings”, the opening concert, takes a look and a listen at some of the first pieces written by a group of burgeoning, teenaged composers, including Mozart, Lutoslawski, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Matan Porat. “Big Bang” features percussive music by Bartók and a piece by Brahms based on gypsy music. “Rule Smashers” centers around those bad boys of innovation, Haydn, Debussy, Stravinsky and Schoenberg. There's a Movie Night when Porat will improvise a score to a Buster Keaton film, and a transcendent finale titled “Origins and Revelations”. Listen to Frank and Diana talk about the programming for ChamberFest in a podcast produced by Erica Brenner.
As Diana Cohen told us, the world class musicians who will be assembling for the five performances include friends of the Cohens and friends of each other, including the 27-year old concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony. We reached Noah Bendix-Balgley (pictured above) by telephone and we began by asking him how he became involved with ChamberFest Cleveland?
Noah Bendix-Balgley: I’ve known Diana Cohen for some time, we first met at the Sarasota Music Festival.
Mike Telin: Prior to your position as concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony, you had quite a career as a chamber music player.
NBB: That’s right. While I was living in Germany I performed a lot of chamber music, and was the first violinist of the Athlos String Quartet.
MT: You also toured with the Miro Quartet.
NBB: Yes, I was very lucky to be able to tour with them. They are such a great ensemble, and they’re also from Cleveland. They were looking for a new violinist and they asked me to fill in on one of their tours.
MT: Are you able to find the time to play chamber music at the moment?
NBB: Yes, and I look forward to doing more with my orchestra colleagues.
MT: Has your chamber music experience helped in your roles as concertmaster?
NBB: Yes, I find a lot of similarity between the role of the firstt violinist of a string quartet and the role of the concertmaster. I think chamber music is the purest form of musical expression and it has informed the approach I take to being a concertmaster; after all the orchestra really is just big chamber music — it’s all about communication. Both are similar and it’s a fun challenge.
MT: Did you always want to be a concertmaster?
NBB: Not really. I didn’t think about it at first, but as I developed as a player I realized that I enjoyed so many things musical, and the concertmaster position offers all of those possibilities. So as I grew, it became very clear that this was a path I should follow.
MT: But you’re having fun?
NBB: It’s been wonderful and it keeps life interesting.
MT: I understand that you also play klezmer music; how did you first start playing it?
NBB: My father, Erik Bendix was a dancer and teacher of Yiddish folk dancing, so I grew up being exposed to it. I really like it and I try to incorporate it into my classical playing. I’m thinking of commissioning some pieces for me as well.
MT: What do you do when you’re not playing the violin?
NBB: I’m a big sports fan!
MT: Have you become a fan of the Pirates?
NBB: I have to say yes, and in fact I recently had the chance to play my own arrangements of the National Anthem and God Bless America at a Pirates game. It was great, they even gave me a jersey, and I got to meet some of the players and managers.
The second evening takes ChamberFest into an unusual venue, The Wine Spot on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. Listen to another podcast produced by Erica Brenner in which Wine Spot owners Adam and Susan Fleischer take Frank and Diana Cohen on a tour of their new emporium.
Four of the ChamberFest performances will be broadcast by WCLV, 104.9 FM. The June 27 and 29 concerts will be live. The June 30 performance will be heard on July 5, and the July 1 concert on July 9, both at 8 pm.
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Published on ClevelandClassical.com June 19, 2012
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