Vadim Gluzman joins the Youth Philharmonic, the top ensemble of the Youth Orchestras of Fresno, on Sunday, May 28, to play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in a concert titled “Coming Home.” It’s quite rare to have someone of Gluzman’s caliber play with an ensemble whose average age is 15. After getting the chance this week to chat with him by phone, here are five things to know about the violinist and the concert:
He’s a famous violinist. Gluzman has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, London Philharmonic … the list goes on. Besides performing all over the world, he’s a prolific recording artist on the BIS label. His latest album, an all-Brahms disc, was just released this month.
Gluzman was listed among the 30 greatest violinists in Jean-Michel Molkhou’s 2014’s “Great Violinists of the Twentieth Century, Volume 2.” In a concert review, the Detroit News wrote that “Gluzman recalls the late Isaac Stern in his prime. Gluzman possesses Stern’s rare passion, his physical strength and his electrifying propensity for altering rhythms and phrases.”
He plays an even more famous violin. I made the mistake when talking with Gluzman of referring to “his” violin, and he made sure I stated it correctly: He plays the legendary 1690 “ex-Leopold Auer” Stradivari on extended loan to him through the generosity of the Stradivari Society of Chicago. The 300-year-old priceless violin is named for Auer, the celebrated 19th century violinist and teacher who owned it.
There’s a great story about the violin and the Tchaikovsky concerto. The composer dedicated the piece to Auer and wanted him to play the planned 1879 premiere. Auer refused, however, saying the work was “unplayable,” which goes down in musical history as a major faux pas. (Later the two men reconciled.)
Gluzman has performed the Tchaikovsky concerto many times, and he still gets a thrill. “It doesn’t really numb the feeling,” he tells me. “Knowing that Tchaikovsky had this violin in mind while writing the piece is very inspiring.”
There’s one reason why Gluzman keeps coming to Fresno: Thomas Loewenheim, conductor of the Youth Orchestras of Fresno. The two men are great friends who coincidentally both studied in Israel just 45 minutes from each other but didn’t meet each other until they met each other in Bloomington, Ind.
Gluzman enjoys playing with younger musicians, and “it doesn’t happen too often, to tell you the truth. But in Fresno, this isn’t just any youth orchestra. It’s amazing what Thomas can do with these students.”
He laughs when I wonder if Loewenheim gets his students to up their game because they’ll be performing with a world-class violinist: “I don’t know what Thomas does to scare them, but I doubt it’s my name.”
Though he’s immersed in a world of professional classical music, Gluzman knows he will find something special in Sunday’s concert. “Working with students, there is this incredible energy and enthusiasm that is so pure,” he says. “With professionals, sometimes this purity of feeling gets lost. In Fresno, I’m sure my expectations will be met and more.”
To read more about the “Coming Home” concert, click for my related story on The Munro Review.