Fidl-Fantazye: A Klezmer Concerto featured the composer and violin virtuoso soloist Noah Bendix-Balgley, a world-class violinist and currently the concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.

A most fascinating musical experience - soul searching, twisting, whirling - wonderful violin virtuosity - a unique, thoroughly enjoyable musical treat which also demonstrated the fantastic ability of the Santa Cruz Symphony.

The highly anticipated Mahler Symphony No. 4 was performed by the spirited Santa Cruz Symphony under the baton of Maestro Danny Stewart, Music Director and Conductor extraordinaire.

To compound this intensity, once again Maestro Stewart conducted this masterpiece and the entire concert from memory!

It is quite obvious Stewart’s affinity for Mahler allows him to capture and magically express Mahler’s musical intensity.

The performance had a tremendous impact on the audience, especially the ‘Mahlerites’ who filled the Mello with eagerness and appreciation.

Stewart made certain the overall dynamic levels enabled subtleties to punctuate and add zest to the special textures designed by Mahler.

Most impressive throughout the concert was the Maestro’s attention and persistence to razor-sharp attacks that achieved significant musical dividends.

All four of the orchestral families performed with brilliance. The pizzicati in particular were quite special, as were the magnificent string textures.

Soprano Meigui Zhang sang with an amazing range that ran the gamut from from the most beautiful balance of soft, textural blending quality up to a rich, full volume of sound. Her German pronunciation was perfect.

A well deserved standing ovation followed this superb performance! BRAVO!

Joseph Sekon, Peninsula Reviews

The Santa Cruz Symphony began its 2018-19 season last weekend with a program featuring world-renowned soloists from the Berlin Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera.

The season’s opening concert was an exciting reminder of Maestro Daniel Stewart’s imagination as Music Director.

Through his visionary leadership, the Santa Cruz Symphony (SCS) continues to introduce us to internationally acclaimed guest artists.

Their remarkable performances are matched by the chameleon-like abilities of our local musicians who easily adapt to diverse musical styles.

Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla showed the Santa Cruz orchestra at its best.

Under Stewart’s baton the musicians merged as a powerful ensemble.

In their fiery performance of Glinka’s Russian piece every instrument sprang vividly to life, each individual solo was played with intensity, and together they produced the kind of orchestral fireworks that make staying seated a challenge.

Following this was the highly anticipated spotlight on Noah Bendix-Balgley, the prize-winning first Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, performing the West Coast premiere of his Klezmer violin concerto, Fidl-Fantazye.

Bendix-Balgley combines the two traditions in his innovative concerto. In a spirited musical dance with the orchestra, he brought the spontaneous element of the klezmer style to the classical concert stage with full-bodied emotion and lightening-like speed.

Led by Stewart’s smooth gestures and intermingling with Zhang’s warm and uplifting vocals, the orchestra transmitted the inherent qualities and celestial mood of Mahler’s composition with a soft, expansive performance.

The concert was a synthesis of talents and traditions; an experience that gave listeners and performers alike an opportunity to appreciate music through both familiar and forward-thinking arrangements.

Fleur Williams, Local Santa Cruz