Gypsy fire
LAWRENCE BUDMEN is impressed by Ukrainian violinist
Vadim Gluzman

Gypsy music has long fascinated and inspired the world's great composers. From Brahms and Enescu through Gyorgy Ligeti, the Magyar spirit has emblazoned concert halls around the globe. The Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi was a muse to two of the twentieth century's creative masters -- Bela Bartók and Maurice Ravel. Bartók composed his First Sonata (a favorite of Yehudi Menuhin) for Ms d'Aranyi. After hearing her play that riveting score in London in 1922 (with Bartók at the piano), Ravel decided to write his own Hungarian pastiche. Ravel found inspiration in Bartók's musicological research on Hungarian folk music and in the Gypsy style variations that Ms d'Aranyi had performed. Ravel's Tzigane -- Rhapsodie de Concert is a dazzling display piece that encompasses double stops, harmonics, pizzicatos, glissandos, and all the technical challenges of Paganini's twenty four Violin Caprices, plus a few more. This score has long been a specialty of Russian violinists. On 4 April 2004 at the University of Miami Gusman Concert Hall, the Ukrainian violinist Vadim Gluzman delivered a brilliantly virtuosic account of this French Magyar display piece -- the climax of a dynamic recital for the Sunday Afternoons of Music series.

The rich, dark sound of Gluzman's violin (a 1609 Stradivarius once owned by the legendary Russian violinist and teacher Leopold Auer) conjured up the world of Tchaikovsky and the Russian violinistic tradition. Gluzman is the contemporary embodiment of that great Russian school of violin virtuosos that runs from Misha Elman and Jascha Heifetz through Gluzman's contemporaries Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin. His blistering performance of Ravel's showpiece received a standing, cheering ovation. And what a performance! (While Tzigane is a Frenchman's impression of Gypsy fiddlers, it remains the work of a master craftsman. Mastery was what Gluzman's rendition was all about.) Gluzman's technique is a given -- his virtuosity is awesome! His violin ignited a Gypsy flame beneath the music. Gluzman did not give a dutiful performance of the notes. His Tzigane glowed with the inner fire of creative inspiration. Violinist and music became one -- a transcendent artistic moment! (As an encore, Gluzman offered Fritz Kreisler's more refined Viennese version of Gypsy music La Gitana. Gluzman played this bon-bon with flair and style. Sentiment without bathos -- exactly the way Kreisler himself played this music.)

Beethoven's Sonata in A for Violin and Piano Op 47 (Kreutzer) is the Mount Olympus of violin-piano works. Here Beethoven reinvents the violin sonata in a manner that has the grandeur and stature of a symphony. Gluzman brought fierce, sinewy accents and brusque, hard driving propulsion to the opening Adagio Sostenuto-Presto. Yet he phrased the songful second theme with classical nobility. (Gluzman did not attempt to prettify the music. This was not a Beethoven performance for the faint of heart.) The violinist displayed tremendous musical imagination and insight in the Andante con Variazioni (second movement). He brought incendiary ferocity to the concluding Presto. Here was a musician who was not afraid to take artistic risks. Gluzman is an artist of taste, discernment, and dynamic creativity. He was aided by the powerful, rhythmically throbbing collaboration of pianist Jonathan Feldman, who beautifully dovetailed Gluzman's phrasing. Gluzman and Feldman revealed Beethoven the Titan! Musicianship at an exalted level!

Edvard Grieg's Sonata No 3 in C Minor for Violin and Piano Op 45 represents the fusion of Norwegian nationalism and nineteenth century Romanticism. Although best known for his piano works, Grieg wrote wonderful scores for string instruments (the Holberg and Lyric Suites, three string quartets, the superb Cello Sonata, and numerous violin works). Gluzman played the songful Violin Sonata with unaffected musicality and sensitive lyricism. He brought fiery intensity without exaggeration to the Allegro molto ed appassionato -- Grieg at his most expressive. Gluzman's dark, throbbing tone made every bar of the Allegretto expressivo alla Romanza a memorable musical experience. In the concluding Allegro animato, he captured the Norwegian folk qualities of the music with zest. Gluzman never neglected the score's grand line. Feldman's sensitive pianism brought musical depth and color to the score. Ultra romantic music in a deeply committed, memorable performance!

Gluzman has always championed the works of twentieth and 21st century composers. (His dazzling performance of Leonard Bernstein's Serenade for Violin, Strings, and Percussion with the Florida Philharmonic under Joseph Silverstein remains a cherished memory.) He has recently recorded music by Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998). Gluzman opened the concert with Schnittke's delightful Suite in the Old Style. This neo-classical work (which also exists in an orchestral version) recasts themes from the composer's film scores. Gluzman brought elegance and dulcet beauty to the score's opening Pastorale. There was vigor and grace in the Ballet and Minuet movements. The witty Fugue was dispatched with virtuosic abandon. Gluzman and Feldman captured both the classical grace and outrageous humor of the final Pantomime. Here the music proceeds in seemingly classical proportions until suddenly an out of tune chord interrupts the elegant flow. Gluzman made the most of these shocking moments -- pure Schnittke.

Vadim Gluzman is a violinist of formidable gifts. He brings tremendous musical curiosity and creative virtuosity to a wide repertoire. A terrific musician! The Great Russian School of Violin virtuosos lives on!

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