BRAHMS Violin Concerto. Violin Sonata No 1
A student of, among others, the famous violin pedagogue Zakhar Bron, Vadim Gluzman carries forwards a Russian-Jewish playing tradition that hails back to Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan, with Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin representing the younger generation. I make the point because all these players display a roster of traits that marks them out as part of an age-old violinistic community: a seductively sweet tone, a biting attack of the bow, agility, brilliance, a flexible approach to phrasing and a perfect balance of head and heart. Of course, there are countless players who hail from other traditions who also lay claim to these and similar virtues, but spend just a few minutes in the company of Gluzman’s Brahms Concerto and, to call on an obvious cliché, you ‘know where he’s coming from’.
Listen from 9'57" in the first movement and you’ll hear Gluzman’s mellow tone, sensitively judged chords, unforced passagework, neat trills and (at 11'28") athletic leaps that hit their target each time. He is also the master of Joachim’s cadenza, a most beautiful performance; his Adagio truly sings (James Gaffigan directs a helpfully flowing accompaniment), while the closing Allegro giocoso dances to a light, winning lilt. Here most of all the collaboration with Gaffigan and his on-the ball Lucerne players works well, though their contribution to the first movement might have benefited from a little more grit and muscle.
Climbing down from the majesty of the Concerto to the intimacy of the G major Sonata, Gluzman is very ably supported by pianist Angela Yoffe, who sees to it that Brahms’s contrapuntally hyperactive piano-writing tells with crystal clarity. Again, a malleable approach to phrasing keeps arguments fresh and meaningful while Gluzman’s tone is if anything even sweeter and more expressively yielding than in the concerto. The finale’s wistful opening is especially affecting and the programme’s closing ‘F A E’ Scherzo relates alternating unrest and passion as vividly as, say, Perlman with Argerich or Ferras with Barbizet.
An excellent disc, then, with high-rating performances and good sound. In the digital/SACD field I can’t think of a Brahms Violin Concerto that I prefer, though Repin with Chailly (DG in standard stereo, generously coupled with the Double Concerto) is easily as good.