Departure of note: The loss of a concertmaster is tribute to the PSO

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Just as subscribers and fans of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra were settling into a comfortable third-season rhythm with Noah Bendix-Balgley as concertmaster, the PSO announced last week that the 29-year-old violinist will leave to become first concertmaster at the Berlin Philharmonic.

It is too good an opportunity for Mr. Bendix-Balgley to pass up. Although he signed a contract with the PSO that expires after 2016-2017, he is expected to be on hand only for part of next season. Gone are the days, as with two of his predecessors, when concertmasters remain with the same symphony for decades.

Since Mr. Bendix-Balgley won’t be staying with the PSO, questions have arisen about the 1732 Bergonzi violin the symphony helped him acquire. It is not known what will happen to the instrument, which experts say may be worth more than $1 million. 

PSO music director Manfred Honeck gave Mr. Bendix-Balgley his blessing to audition for the job, although he would have preferred that the young concertmaster stay.

This steal by Berlin, one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, is testimony not only to the star violinist’s talent but also to the high caliber of musicians who are the heart and soul of the Pittsburgh Symphony. In that way, Mr. Bendix-Balgley’s departure is a loss but also a tribute to the great music that is made here weekend after weekend.


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