Works by Ravel, Beethoven, and Leclair

Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe

Wigmore Hall, 14 March 2011 5 stars

Gluzman JoffePublicity material for Vadim Gluzman's Wigmore Hall debut stated that 'Vadim Gluzman harkens back to the Golden Age of violinists of the 19th and 20th centuries in technique and sensibility, while possessing the passion and energy of the 21st century'. Although it is not entirely clear how passion and energy of the current century differ from those in earlier centuries, without doubt Gluzman belongs to the great violinists of any age.

I heard him several times under various conditions: these included concerto performances in a minor Budapest concert venue as well as in the Royal Festival Hall, CD recordings, and broadcasts. I should declare at the outset that – after these encounters – I have been favourably disposed to Gluzman's quality; enough to organise a group of twenty children (from age 4 to 12) and twenty-one adults to attend his Wigmore Hall debut. Gluzman did not disappoint.

Leclair's Violin Sonata in D, Op. 9 No. 3 is not an easy warm-up piece for the violinist although it is an excellent overture for putting the audience into listening mode. With its dotted rhythms and powerful double stops on the violin, the opening Andante movement grabs the attention. In spite of considerable (and, I hasten to add, perfectly executed) technical demands, Gluzman delivered the intricate polyphonic lines with sensitivity and transparency. The robust contrasts in the second (Allegro) movement were treated with assurance and humour, while the third movement (Sarabanda) produced beautiful cantilena violin playing with well matched agogics (rubato within the bar) in the piano part. Gluzman observed the bowing style of baroque performance practice with taste; his gentle decorative additions – that is, trills – were delightful. The final movement (Tambourin) was spirited and gave the impression of a robust orchestral dance.

Beethoven's Op. 47 'Kreutzer' sonata provided the most substantial work in the programme. Gluzman's sustained melodic line in the opening solo violin chords was well matched by Angela Yoffe's response in the piano part; thus the musical chemistry of the husband-wife duo was evident from the start and was maintained with admirable ensemble work throughout. Gluzman’s breathtaking virtuosity supported the musical structure; the theme was ever present in the variations of the second movement. The final movement could have served as a master class for presenting a musical dialogue (between violin and piano) in a very fast tempo (Presto) but also for bowing technique: Gluzman's use of the upper half (as well as the heel) of the bow aided the transparency of the contrasting motives.

Ravel's Kaddisch – the Jewish prayer for the dead – from his Deux Mélodies Hébraïques [Two Hebrew Melodies] received a passionate and authentic performance. The other Ravel piece, Tzigane, dazzled all of us: Gluzman made the incredibly difficult violin passages sound as if they were easy and great fun to play.

The sold out Wigmore Hall audience greatly appreciated Gluzman's well chosen programme and its high standard of delivery. The children in my group were exhausted – there was no interval during the 65 minutes concert – but excited. Admittedly, some of them liked meeting Gluzman and Yoffe (backstage after the concert) the best. This meeting was also skilfully and tastefully handled by the duo. They did not talk down to the children; they did not play the part of the great artists (which they are). They focused on this matter as they focused on musical matters: with wisdom and natural communication. Several of the children obliged with their own reviews of the event. Some of their comments are enlightening.

'I liked the music because they didn't make any mistake.' (Carolina Di Cecio, age 4)

'I was amazed by how the music was hard to play and they were able to do it. I believe that they practice every day. The instruments were having a chat together. I felt I was participating as well. ‘(Clara Heck, age 6)

'I noticed how much the pianist was looking at the violinist to make sure that they are all the time playing together.' (Naomi Walden, age 6)

'After the concert we waited in a long queue to see the performers and when we saw them they had a big smile!!' (Hector Di Zenzo, age 6)

'I was feeling a bit lulled by the end of the slow movement, but the jaunty rhythm of the finale made me want to jump up and dance!' (Aria Watts, age 6)

'I liked the whole concert quite a lot because the violin made a good contrast to the piano…The violin was the main part, but the piano still had some very tricky bits.' (Francesca Di Cecio, age 7)

'I especially liked the Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata …It really did sound like a conversation between the violin and the piano.' (Sophie Chin, age 7)

'I was impressed by how Vadim Gluzman moved his fingers so quickly.' (Scipio Zamparo, age 7)

'My favourite part of the [Kreutzer] sonata was the first movement. It starts in major but sounds more sad than happy.' (Miles Camilleri, age 7)

'I thought that the bowing and going in and out the door was a very silly thing to do.' (Aaron Esler, age 8)

'My favourite piece was the last one. In this the violinist patted the violin with the bow in some places, giving a pom-pom-pom-like sound. I asked my violin teacher to show this to me, but it did not sound the same.' (Abigail Aradi-Posylkin, age 8)

'What I especially liked about the piece [Kreutzer] is that it went at a range of different speeds; creating different moods… My favourite part of the outing was meeting the artists.' (Joshua Leonce-Weekes, age 10)

'Vadim played the 1690 ex-Leopold Auer Stradivarius…it made a beautiful sound in the hands of Vadim… My favourite was the last piece, Tzigane by Ravel where there was some amazing finger playing by Vadim.' (Hollie Gold, age 12)

By Agnes Kory

Photo: Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe with 20 happy school children!

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