Beethoven and Bloch: Alex Goldberg ’18 Takes Audience Through Musical Timeline

As his fingers race across the strings of his violin, Alex Goldberg ’18 calmly moves his bow and hits every note in Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001.” Goldberg begins to play louder and louder until finally striking his bow across the strings to produce two long, dramatic notes that finish the piece.

Goldberg opened last Saturday’s violin recital with “Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001.” This recital, held in the Timken Room of Graves Hall, featured Goldberg on violin with piano accompaniment by Dina Vainshtein, Goldberg’s music teacher.

Goldberg also performed “Sonata No. 1, Opus 12 in D Major,” by Beethoven. This piece’s first movement was a contrasting blend of stretched, long notes and sharp, short notes. The second movement featured four variations on a single tune. The variations ranged from fast and turbulent melodies to smooth and sweet phrases. In the cheerful third movement, the melody alternated between the violin and the piano.

Charles Stacy ’16, an audience member, said, “I think Dina, his accompanist, had an equal part in this sonata. Beethoven’s sonata is really defined by the correlation between the violin and the piano. And it’s great that Alex really listened to the piano, and the piano really listened to him. They played well together.”

“Nigun No. 2” from “Baal Shem,” by Ernest Bloch, was another piece that Goldberg performed. The interchange between long, steady notes and dissonant chords created a dark and tense mood in the piece. The piece built tension through dramatic changes in volume and speed. At the end of the piece, the violin played several long and high notes accompanied softly by the piano. The final notes were barely audible, allowing the end of the piece to drop seamlessly into silence.

Goldberg said, “I think [my favorite piece] was the Bloch, the ‘Nigun.’ It’s just such a powerful piece, and it’s got a lot of meaning behind it, and I feel like it connects with my culture. It just means a lot to me. I am Jewish and a ‘Nigun’ is a Jewish prayer song. It is very interesting in that sense.”

Goldberg then played “Concerto No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 61,” by Camille Saint-Saëns, purely from memory. The blurring of the quickly advancing notes from both the piano and the violin resolved in the concentrated trills at the very end of the first movement, while the second movement contained a single motif played in different ranges by both the piano and the violin. The third movement, which ended the concerto, alternated between high melodies and long notes that resembled a march.

Isaac Newell ’18, an audience member, said, “I also liked the Saint-Saëns at the end, how it got into the really high range [of the] violin. It was very virtuosic. It was pretty amazing to watch. His notes were very accurate and clear. He [played] every note with a very strong sound. I really liked how his tone varied a lot, how in the Saint-Saëns, sometimes he went from a very scratchy sound with the bow to a very soft tone.”

Richard Goldberg, Alex’s father, said “In the last few weeks, [Alex] made huge improvements and just the emotion he put into this [has increased so much]. I am just really proud of him, and this is just something he does outside of school… I know it’s really hard for [Andover students] to carve time into doing anything extra… I am personally dumbfounded by what he has accomplished.”