Breaking: Berlin Phil grab concertmaster from Pittsburgh

Breaking: Berlin Phil grab concertmaster from Pittsburgh


norman lebrecht

February 14, 2014

Noah Bendix-Balgley won the audition for first concertmaster in Berlin today (14th). He replaces Guy Braunstein, who quit at the end of last season to pursue solo opportunities. Good for Noah, good for Guy.

Concertmaster of the Berlin Phil used to be a job for life. No longer. Players these days seek greater diversity in their careers – and so they should. I have just been discussing that positive trend at the Colburn School.

noah bendix-bailey


  • MacroV says:

    Good for him. I hadn’t realized Guy Braunstein had left the BPO; he’s an amazing violinist. But playing principal/CM in the BPO is about as good as you can have it as an orchestra player, given that you only have to play about half the time, providing a great base with a lot of time for extracurricular activities. Apparently Herr Braunstein wanted more.

  • William ford says:

    Congratulations to Noah, This says a lot about the quality in Pittsburgh. I hope they (or anyone else) don’t poach Vosburgh (trumpet), Caballero (horn), Rusinek (clarinet), or Honeck (music director).

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Don’t worry. They don’t “poach” players. In order to win a vacant position there, one has to apply and win an audition. And, as good as these wind players are, their sound and playing style wouldn’t fit in the BP at all, so they are quite safe from “poaching”.

  • Mark Stratford says:

    He’s a nice guy and wonderful player. Watch this:

  • Papageno says:

    Fantastic player, and he’s kind of cute as well. Move over, Andreas Ottensamer… ūüėČ

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    “Concertmaster of the Berlin Phil used to be a job for life.”

    That’s what one would think, especially with such well known concertmasters of recent memory in mind who stayed with the orchestra for decades until retirement age, such as Leon Spierer (30 years), Michel Schwalb√© (28 years).

    However, out of 30 musicians who have held a position as 1st concertmaster with the BP (there have been two since 1923, and three since 1934), these two are the only two such examples.

    Toru Yasunaga retired early at 57 after 26 years (and 32 years total with the orchestra). So he could have set a new “record” if he had decided to stay until the regular retirement age of 65.

    The only other 1st concertmaster who left his position to go into retirement was Hugo Kolberg who emigrated to the US in 1938 because his wife was Jewish and who returned 20 years later to round off his career with five more years in his previous position which had been vacant in the meantime.

    Szymon Goldberg was forced to give up his position in 1934 because of his Jewish background. He emigrated to England and later to the US.

    Erich R√∂hn left (or was forced to leave, I don’t remember which) the orchestra in 1945 because he had been too close to the NS regime.

    All other 1st concertmasters left the orchestra, often at a fairly young age, to move on to solo and/or teaching careers, and sometimes also to other orchestras (yes, that happened a few times, too!).

    Of the 20 2nd concertmasters so far, only one, Hans Gieseler, stayed in his position until retirement, Rainer Sonne stepped down to take a tutti position after 34 years and he is still there.

    I have the book with the members’ biographies here so I spent an afternoon as hobby historian and compiled this list. It is often very interesting to google the names of those who left, especially the younger ones, and see where their later careers took them.

    Behind each name is the age at which they left the orchestra and a brief note about where they moved on to.

    1st Concertmasters

    1882 César Thomson (25, prof. Liège, Paris)

    1882-83 Eugène Baudot (27, died only 2 years later in Amsterdam)

    1883-86 Johann Kruse (27, solo career, member of Joachim Quartett)

    1886-87 Enrique Fernández Arbós (23, soloist, conductor)

    1887-93 Ludwig Bleuer (29, solo career)

    1893-94 Bram Eldering (28, Hofkapelle Meiningen, prof. Amsterdam, Cologne)

    1894-10 Anton Witek (37, Boston SO)

    1910-17 Julius Thornberg (33, Kongelige Kapel Copenhagen)

    1917-20 Géza von Kresz (35, prof. Berlin, 1923 emig. Canada)

    1920-25 Maurits van den Berg (27, Berliner Funk-Orchester, Concertgebouworkest)

    1925-27 Tossy Spivakovsky (20, solo career, later Cleveland Orchestra)

    1927-30 Wilfried Hanke (29, 2nd concertmaster 1930-33, 1933 PhilHamburg)

    1930-34 Szymon Goldberg (25, emig.England, USA)

    1934-38 Hugo Kolberg (emig. USA 1939-58)

    1958-63 Hogo Kolberg (65, retired)

    1963-93 Leon Spierer (65, retired)

    1993-98 Rainer Kussmaul (52, prof. Freiburg)

    1993-99 Kolja Blacher (36, prof. Hamburg)

    2000-13 Guy Braunstein (41, solo career)

    1923-31 Henry Holst (32, emig. England)

    1933-41 Siegfried Borries (on leave 1941-45, Staatskapelle Berlin)

    1941-45 Gerhard Taschner (23, solo career, prof. Berlin)

    1945-61 Siegfried Borries (49, prof. Berlin)

    1962-83 Thomas Brandis (48, prof. Berlin, L√ľbeck, London)

    1983-09 Toru Yasunaga (57, retired)

    2009-14 Daishin Kashimoto

    1934-45 Erich Röhn (35, NWDR Hamburg, prof. Hamburg)

    1948-49 Saschko Gawriloff (20, solo career, prof. Detmold, Essen, Cologne)

    1949-56 Helmut Heller (36, RSO Berlin, PhilStO Hamburg, prof. Hamburg)

    1957-85 Michel Schwalbé (65, retired)

    1986-14 Daniel Stabrawa

    2nd Concertmasters

    1882-83 Carl Krökel (23, tutti 1st violins)

    1883-87 Ludwig Bleuer (promoted 1st concertmaster)

    1887-92 Carl Krökel (33, Hofkapelle Berlin)

    1893-97 Hugo Olk (29, emig. USA)

    1897-01 Jan Buchtele (32, Helsiniki, Warschau, St.Petersburg, prof. Prague)

    1901-03 Karl Klingler (23, solo career, prof. Berlin, member of Joachim Quartett)

    1903-11 Jan Gesterkamp (30, PhilHamburg)

    1911-?? Hans Bassermann (23, Gewandhausorchester, prof. Leipzig, Weimar, later Palestine SO, emig. to USA)

    ????-?? Franz von Szpanowski (?, later RSO Berlin)

    1914-15 Louis Persinger (28, Brussels, SFSO, prof. Juilliard)

    1916-20 Licco Amar (28, Mannheim, prof. Ankara, Freiburg)

    1920-22 Jan Dahmen (24, Staatskapelle Dresden, Concergebouworkest)

    1922-23 Henry Holst (promoted 1st concertmaster)

    1930-33 Wilfried Hanke (32, PhilHamburg)

    1942-47 Ulrich Grehling (31, prof. Freiburg)

    1948-49 Hans D√ľnschede (41, Staatskapelle Berlin, prof. Berlin)

    1949-74 Hans Gieseler (62, retired)

    1974-76 Bernd Gellermann (35, tutti 1st violins)

    1976-10 Rainer Sonne (60, tutti 1st violins)

    2010-14 Andreas Buschatz