Bramwell Tovey

Gluzman Plays Shostakovich

Dates and Venue 5 and 7 June 2010 @ 8pm | Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Vadim Gluzman's rendition of Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 was truly a thrill ride of the highest order, in the hands of a master whose skills and passion astonished the crowd. Playing with his magnificent 1690 ex-Leopold Auer Stradivarius, his virtuosity and technical brilliance awed the Vancouver audience who stood up with extended Bravos and ovations after his energetic performance.

What impressed me and the audience the most was that almost 15 minute solo with no accompaniment from the VSO where we witnessed his skills and extraordinary handling of his Stradivarius. What a delight it was hearing the sounds of that magnificent Stradivarius exuding sounds only the best of violins could produce.

Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 was written in 1947, but it didn't premiere until after Stalin's death. Apparently, this wasn't the kind of "state-serving music" that Stalin appreciated, and Shostakovich didn't dare publish and perform it as it was too radical and rebellious for the Stalin regime.

The symphony begins with a Nocturne, with the violas and cellos quietly playing in the background while the sole voice of the Stradivarius plays its high notes as though weeping in its loneliness. What follows is a Scherzo, and I could feel the rhythm as my feet were tapping with the rhythm of Gluzman's intensity.

A Passacaglia follows, mournful yet noble, as though the composer were writing a requiem for Stalin's victims. The unorthodox approach of the composer is expressed with a slow-fast-slow-fast symphonic structure which was marvelously executed by the Israeli violinist, and finally, breaking away from this tension, the last movement, an Allegro con brio, jumps out into a burlesque and joyous defiance, as though the composer was crying out "Freedom from tyranny!"

This was indeed a mesmerizing performance by Gluzman and the VSO under the creative conducting of Bramwell Tovey who gave their all delivering this radical composition of the rebellious Russian genius.

© 2010 Ed Farolan