Renowned Violinist Guzman to play Intimate Bach-Centered Longmont Program
A preview by Kelly Dean Hansen
Violinist Vadim Gluzman has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras. The Ukrainian-born Israeli violinist–recognized as one of today’s top performing artists–made an appearance at the 2016 Colorado Music Festival, playing with the Festival Orchestra and on a chamber recital with the University of Colorado’s star pianist David Korevaar.
Gluzman returns to Boulder County next month to present an intimate recital with Indonesian pianist Janice Carissa as part of the current Boulder Bach Festival season. The program takes place 4 p.m. Saturday, February 11 at the Longmont Museum Stewart Auditorium (Click for tickets). The four works include two by Bach himself, one of which is filtered through the lens of another immortal composer, Robert Schumann. The other two are pieces for solo violin that are deeply influenced by Bach’s great solo sonatas and partitas.
Carissa plays with Gluzman on the two Bach works, but only one was written with keyboard accompaniment in mind, the C-minor sonata for violin and clavier. The other is the immortal Ciaccona (Chaconne) from the Partita in D minor for solo violin. At a time when unaccompanied violin performances were rare, Schumann endeavored to make Bach’s sonatas and partitas more accessible by providing piano accompaniments. The Chaconne will be played with Schumann’s addition.
Responding to questions about the program, Gluzman said that “there is no other musician–in the past or present–who has not been affected by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Throughout centuries composers and performers were drawn to, educated, and inspired by works of the great master.”
Following the Bach duo sonata, which opens the program, Gluzman will play one of the six solo sonatas by the great Belgian violinist and composer Eugene Ysaÿe, which Gluzman described as “incredibly virtuosic and intense.” Ysaÿe wrote his six sonatas in 1923, each of which was dedicated to one of his contemporary violinists. Gluzman plays No. 2, written for Ysaÿe’s friend the French violinist Jacques Thibaud. It particularly resembles the style of Bach and includes direct Bach quotations, notably the familiar Prelude from the Partita in E major at the beginning.
The first movement is titled “Obsession,” which Gluzman said referred to “obsession with Bach of course!” The obsessive use of the “Dies irae” chant melody from the Mass for the Dead is another thread heard through the sonata, and both the chant and the Bach quotations are placed in the context of Ysaÿe’s early 20th-century aesthetic.
Gluzman then presents a solo work by contemporary composer Lera Auerbach. Gluzman called the Russian-born American composer “one of the most widely performed composers of our day.” Speaking of the work on the program, Gluzman said that she “wrote it for me in 2007 as a commission by the Bachwoche [Bach Week] in Ansbach, Germany.”
The piece, titled “par.ti.ta,” is “an incredible work, projecting Lera’s lifelong fascination with Bach. We hear traces and echoes of the Brandenburg Concerti, Concerto for Two Violins, and the Sonatas and Partitas. No particular work is being quoted, yet I can’t help the feeling of being drawn to an incredible world of shades, echoes–are these shades of ourselves?”
Quoting Auerbach, Gluzman said “the name suggests that the piece is not only composed but also ‘de-composed,’ as if to bring the listener’s attention to minute details, momentary changes of colors, moods and intensity.”
The program closes with the Bach/Schumann Ciaccona. “This is not an attempt to set a new standard of interpretation–not at all!” Gluzman said. “It is an opportunity to some degree to look at Bach’s music through the eyes (and ears!) of another great artist.” He added that “just like the works by Ysaÿe and Auerbach, this version of the Ciaccona offers us a chance to create an imaginary time bridge between Bach and all the way to our days.”
According to BBF music director Zachary Carrettin, the original Bach sonata for violin and clavier is based more on Baroque-era counterpoint, while Schumann’s accompaniment to the Ciaccona is from the more harmonically driven perspective of the Romantic era, providing a contrasting picture of Bach’s violin writing through differing styles of keyboard accompaniment.
Carissa was one of the young musicians from the 2019 edition of Gluzman’s Chicago-based North Shore Chamber Music Festival. The Arkady Fomin Scholarship Fund was established in 2015 by the festival to support extraordinary new talents. “To date, we have offered scholarships, guidance, and performance opportunities to over 50 young artists all over the world,” Gluzman said.
Of Carissa, he said that she “right away became a true member of the NSCMF family. She has returned to Chicago every year. Our musicians and audiences adore her extraordinary playing, her sparkling musicianship, stage presence and sincerity. It is a true joy making music with her.” Since her first appearance, she was awarded the prestigious Gilmore Young Artist Award and signed a contract with a major music management firm in New York. “We are witnessing a young artist at the threshold of an important career,” Gluzman said.
Carrettin said that “navigating the waters of music history with Bach as our compass, this program has four centuries of Bach and his influence, while offering four very distinct musical styles.” He added that “hearing these works in a small, 250-seat acoustically live auditorium offers the rare opportunity to hear a great Strad [the 1690 “ex-Leopold Auer” Stradivarius on which Gluzman performs] in a salon-type setting. It’s a listening experience that’s close to hearing what the great violin soloist hears with the violin on his shoulder.”