Entertainment and Music Lifestyle

Asheville Symphony Debuts Artist Residency

Shanshan Yao and Noah Bendix-Balgley. Photo by Nikolaj Lund

In March, Asheville Symphony presents its inaugural Artist Residency: A Celebration of the Violin during which world-renowned violinists Noah Bendix-Balgley and Shanshan Yao will take audiences through a week-long exploration of the violin as an instrument, with events that include a masterclass, lecture and workshop, and solo and symphony performances.

“The Asheville Symphony regularly invites world-class soloists to participate in its Masterworks, Pops and ALT concerts as well as to headline its Amadeus Festival,” says Daniel Crupi, Asheville Symphony executive director. “However, due to their busy schedules, these soloists are usually in Asheville for a very short period of time, just enough to rehearse and perform with the full orchestra. With our new Artist Residency program, we have an opportunity to embed these world-class artists in our community in a variety of different contexts over the course of a week.”

Bendix-Balgley, First Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic and an Asheville native, was the first person to come to mind during planning stages for the Residency. “His credentials are unequivocal—concertmaster of the world’s greatest orchestra, soloist and chamber musician on the world’s famous stages,” says Asheville Symphony music director Darko Butorac. “He also has a love and affinity for violin music beyond the orchestra world, in particular with Klezmer, Roma and Balkan traditions. His wife Shanshan Yao (a former member of the New York Philharmonic and outstanding chamber musician) will join for several performances as well, most notably in our Masterworks concert.”

Bendix-Balgley says he welcomes the chance to return home to Asheville. “It is very meaningful to present such a musical passion project in my hometown,” he says. “I will also highlight a part of Asheville’s musical history that people may not know much about. In 1943-44, the great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók spent many months in Asheville, staying at the Albemarle Inn. During this time he composed his solo violin sonata, one of the greatest (and most difficult) violin works of the 20th century. I will be performing the Bartók Sonata as part of my solo violin recital on March 14.”

Beginning March 12, the week’s roster of events includes ALT ASO @ Asheville Masonic Temple, a performance during which Bendix-Balgley will explore a range of genres; Masterclass with Shanshan Yao, a hands-on workshop in orchestral technique for strings students; Solo Bravura, a solo violin program during which Bendix-Balgley will perform technically difficult pieces from a span of five centuries; A Conversation on the Violin, a lecture by Osher Lifelong Learning Institute musicologist and associate dean at Oberlin Conservatory Dr. Christopher Jenkins; and an Asheville Symphony Youth Orchestra Performance with Bendix-Balgley.

Asheville Symphony’s Masterworks 5: Violin Virtuosi will be held Saturday, March 16, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Asheville. Bendix-Balgley and Yao headline the program as a duo, performing Butterfly Lovers’ Concerto and Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. Bendix-Balgley will perform Brahms’ violin concerto as a finale to the evening. “I would say that Shanshan and I agree about many musical matters,” Bendix-Balgley says. “But we also have different backgrounds in our playing (based on where we studied and what our influences were). So it is always an inspiring musical conversation.”

The biennial Artist Residency will be a collaboration with a preeminent musical artist to help audiences discover new ways to appreciate and understand a musical instrument and its role in an orchestra.

To learn more about dates and venues, and to purchase tickets, visit AshevilleSymphony.org/artist-residency, or call 828.254.7046.

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