Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Taneyev

Vadim Gluzman; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Neeme Järvi

Royal Festival Hall, 30 October 2008 5 stars

Vadim GluzmanFor me the highlight of this excellent concert was, without doubt, the London debut of violinist Vadim Gluzman.

Judging by the audience's response, I was not alone in being astonished by his extraordinary performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Although highly disciplined, Gluzman does not only perform but visibly lives every note – whether in the orchestral or solo passages – of the music. He knows all parts of the score and faithfully observes all compositional directions while, at the same time, delivering an organic performance: indeed, if one was not familiar with Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, one could be forgiven for thinking that Gluzman created the music on the spot.

From the technical point of view the solo violin part is extremely difficult. Many violinists cope admirably with these difficulties but I have never heard anybody lend such a range of discreet musical nuances (such as changes of tone colors, dynamics, tempo fluctuations) to these neck-breaking virtuoso passages as Gluzman does. In fact, a listener without any technical knowledge of violin playing might have deemed the piece technically easy after this performance. As for the slow middle movement: while Gluzman's violin 'sang' the oriental canzonetta, I could not help thinking that any singer wishing to perform an aria from a Russian opera should listen to this performance.

Gluzman's violin is of note, especially in connection with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. It is the extraordinary 1690 'ex-Leopold Auer' Stradivarius violin, lent to Gluzman on a long loan by the Stradivari Society of Chicago. Leopold Auer was a Hungarian violinist who taught for some 50 years in Russia and was the founder of the so-called Russian violin tradition. His students included Jascha Heifetz, Misha Elman, Nathan Milstein, Efrem Zimbalist and many other great violinists. Originally Tchaikovsky dedicated his Violin Concerto to Auer but he deemed it too difficult, so the premiere was given by Adolf Brodsky, the new dedicatee. However, shortly before Tchaikovsky's death Auer performed the concerto in public - presumably on the same violin on which Vadim Gluzman performs the concerto today!

Neeme JarviGluzman's performance was greatly supported by conductor Neeme Järvi. The two artists appeared to speak the same musical language – this kind of happy encounter cannot always be taken for granted between conductors and soloists! – which in turn created chamber music at its best between orchestra and soloist.

In the four-movement Le Coq D'Or suite by Rimsky-Korsakov Järvi's interpretation left no doubt about the magical story line. Järvi is in full control of the music as well as the orchestra whom he inspires for unusually sensitive, chamber-music like orchestral playing. It is rare to hear some thirty violinists to play so gently and beautifully as the LPO violins played their andantino theme in the first movement. Järvi's dance rhythms are tight but fully alive, his long but varied structural lines take the orchestra and listeners alike on a journey of discovery.   

I very much enjoyed Taneyev's Symphony No. 4. But even with a score in my hand, on first hearing I could not tell for sure whether I heard a great work by a great master – who was one of Tchaikovsky's composition students – or whether anything conductor Neeme Järvi touches turns gold. I will make sure to listen to this symphony again. But now full marks to the London Philharmonic Orchestra and special praise to the wind section.

It was a privilege and joy to attend this concert.

By Agnes Kory

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