VADIM GLUZMAN (10-16-05)

By Lawrence Budmen

For a quarter century Sunday Afternoons of Music has brought the world’s greatest artists to Miami. The opening concert of the series’ 25th anniversary season on October 16 at the University Of Miami Frost School Of Music’s Gusman Concert Hall featured an extraordinary musician – the Russian born violin firebrand Vadim Gluzman. In a wide ranging repertoire Gluzman proved not only a brilliantly endowed artist with technique verging on the spectacular but a deeply probing, intellectually rigorous interpreter.

Accompanied at the piano by his wife Angela Yoffe, Gluzman opened the program with the Baroque filigree of Tartini’s Didona Abandonata Sonata. The glistening tones of the opening Larghetto dazzled the ear with their silky afterglow. The elegant fireworks of the Presto non troppo really sizzled.

The beauties of the Tartini were only a prelude to the afternoon’s main event. Johannes Brahms’s Violin Sonata in D Minor, Opus 108 is one of the monuments of the string repertoire. From the first bars of the initial Allegro, Gluzman played with passionate romantic fervor. The melancholy love song of the Adagio really took wing in Gluzman’s deeply felt performance. His tone was full, rich, and darkly burnished. The singing line of this glorious movement was delivered with sublime eloquence. (Gluzman plays a 1690 Stradivarius violin that once belonged to the legendary Leopold Auer – one of the founders of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music – for whom Tchaikovsky composed his Violin Concerto. A magnificent instrument!) The final Presto Agitato soared with fiery abandon. Here was fiddling on an extraordinary level and music making of the most elevated variety! Ms. Yoffe was a strong, musically intelligent collaborator. Her pianism was replete with tonal beauty – an unforgettable performance! 

Gluzman and Yoffe opened the concert’s post intermission half with more Brahms – the devilish Scherzo from the F-A-E Sonata. Gluzman’s version had an appropriately Paganini-like incendiary fire. Dimitri Shostakovich’s 1930’s Jazz Suite No.1 – in a transcription by the violinist’s father Michael Gluzman – was an engaging novelty. The violinist turned the Waltz into a high wire violin act – with dizzying harmonics in the upper register. The charm and sarcasm of the Foxtrot were given full sway – a total delight! 

The Niggun movement from the Baal Shem Suite by Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) provided one of the afternoon’s true highlights. Based on Hasidic music, Bloch’s score is etched in heartfelt reverence. (Bloch was one of the 20th century’s singular creative voices. His scores deserve more frequent performances.) Gluzman played Bloch’s visionary work with real Judaic heart and soul. It was if the music emerged from his inner being! Joffe’s transcendent pianism aided the music’s eternal glow. 

Gluzman concluded with a transcription of Figaro’s aria from Rossini’s Barber of Seville by the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) – commissioned by no less than Jascha Heifetz. The wild harmonics and exaggerated double stop variations provided great fun. This party piece is only for violinists with flawless technique. Gluzman – a shining paragon of the Russian school of string players – dashed off Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s witty showpiece with suave ease.

Gluzman’s encores - music from Fiddler on the Roof by Jerry Bock and the Romanian Dances by Bartok - provided the Slavic icing on the cake – in fiery Gypsy formation. A terrific celebration of great violin playing and a tribute to a great concert series! Bravo!

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