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For Vadim Gluzman, love means never having to say no to Fresno

Vadim Gluzman, violinist extraordinaire, is a busy man. He’s often bopping around the world performing with the Berlin Philharmonic, say, or headlining with the Boston Symphony, or wowing audiences at the Royal Concertgebouw. Often he’s recording a new album, or learning more music for upcoming concerts, including pieces in which the “ink is not yet dry,” he tells me. Getting onto his calendar is tough.

But he loves to make time for Fresno.

Pictured above: Vadim Gluzman will perform Beethoven and Bach. Photo: Good Company Players

Gluzman is guest artist for “Love Conquers All” (7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, Shaghoian Hall), the annual Valentine’s-themed fundraiser for the Youth Orchestras of Fresno. This will be the fourth time that the celebrated violinist, a main draw at concert halls around the world, will bring his 1690 “Leopold Auer” Stradivarius violin to play with the orchestra.

Why?

On the phone from Chicago, where it’s snowing on Thursday and he’s cramming in a bunch of obligations before his travel day to Fresno, Gluzman has an easy answer. It has to do with his old friend Thomas Loewenheim, the Youth Orchestras’ charismatic conductor.

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“If we want our art to continue, we need to take care of the new generation. When I see people like Thomas, who inspires not only the kids but their parents and families, I can’t resist. If you know Thomas, you know that he is irresistible.”

Loewenheim will conduct Gluzman in two major pieces on the program: the Beethoven violin concerto (thus continuing the yearlong celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth); and as one of the soloists in the Bach concerto for two violins.

First, about the Beethoven: The performance will include a special treat. Gluzman will be playing two cadenzas — defined as a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work, typically near the end — written by Alfred Schnittke. An interesting thing about the cadenzas is that the timpani player is also involved, a departure from the usual solo form.

Norman Lebrecht of Slipped Disc, writing about the cadenzas, calls them “a tour d’horizons of great concertos, with snatches of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Ysaye, Schoenberg, Berg, and Schnittke himself.”

“It’ll be a challenge for the kids,” Gluzman tells me. “And a great experience for them.”


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As for playing Beethoven in his anniversary birth year, he’s doing it a lot these days, of course. But he isn’t complaining. When I (sort of) jokingly ask if he’s tired of performing works by the composer so much, he assures me that he is not.

“If I get tired of Beethoven, I might as well go and retire. It’s an honor to have a chance to play it. If you have a chance to be in Rome and see the Sistine Chapel, do you say, um, ‘I’ve already seen it’?”

As for the Bach: Gluzman will perform as one of two solo violinists called for in the concerto.

The other violinist slot will be divided between two Youth Philharmonic members, Benjamin Pegram and Alexander Han. They won a competition to perform alongside Gluzman.

“I do think it is important to let the younger generation have the chance to be on stage with old-timers,” he says with a laugh.

The pairing of younger and older generations is a time-honored tradition in the classical music world. In Tel Aviv, when he was a teenager, Gluzman got the chance to perform Vivaldi with the famed violinist Pinchas Zukerman.

Was he nervous performing alongside such a revered player?

“I was dying,” he says. “But since I remember how I felt, I will do my best to put the kids at ease.”

The concert will feature two of the three orchestras under the Youth Orchestras umbrella. Other selections on the program include Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and Li Huanzhi’s “Spring Festival Overture.” The event is also the site of an “over-the-top dessert auction,” as organizers call it, with opportunities to bid on and take home extravagant sweets — just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I ask Gluzman if there’s anything in Fresno he hasn’t yet done or seen, considering how many times he’s been here. But the life of a busy violinist doesn’t always include time for sightseeing, even when you’re staying at the home of an old friend.

“I have done absolutely nothing in Fresno and seen nothing,” he says with a laugh. “All my visits to Fresno have been to visit Mr. Loewenheim. He likes the people around him to work hard, and he works the hardest.”

That sounds like a true love affair with music to me.


Concert info

‘Love Conquers All,’ Youth Orchestras of Fresno, 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, Shaghoian Hall. Reserved seating is ($25 adult/$10 under-18 for regular seats, $35 adult/$15 under-18 for premium seats, $50 for super-premium seats). Tickets can be purchased online at youthorchestrasfresno.org or directly at lca20.bpt.me. Attendees and their donations of any amount will also be welcomed at the door on concert day.


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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