The first conductor Vadim Gluzman saw in concert was Vassily Sinaisky. Now an international musician himself, Gluzman is performing the Korngold Violin Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Sinaisky’s baton. Ahead of the concert on 7 October Gluzman talks about Korngold’s work and the very personal aspect of this performance.
You’ve known Vassily Sinaisky since you were five. What’s it like to be working with him now?
Sinaisky was the first conductor I ever saw – and when you’re a child you see something and it stays with you for life. Beethoven Fifth Symphony, Beethoven Ninth, Mozart’s 40th: all these great symphonies I heard for the first time under his baton. I’ve known him since I was five, so every time I play with him it is as if I’m going back to childhood. I become that young boy who comes to concerts and hears all the great music for the first time.
Why have you chosen to perform the Korngold Violin Concerto?
This is a piece that he wrote for Jascha Heifetz at the very end of the Second World War and within it he used music from his movie scores, from The Prince and the Pauper, Another Dawn, Juarez – I think this is the closest that I will ever get to being on the silver screen. And Korngold managed to take this thematic material and turn it into an absolutely premium piece of classical music. It’s so regal and Straussian at times. It’s shamelessly beautiful.
What’s it like to perform?
My perception is that Korngold simply said to himself ‘the sky is the limit’ and he didn’t worry about the possible or the impossible – there are a number of passages that are absolutely finger-breaking. Each and every time I play the piece it’s an absolute roller-coaster: there are moments when your lungs seem to shut down for a moment.
As the piece was written for Heifetz, does his shadow hang over you when you play it?
Not at all. I am in awe of Heifetz, of course – I don’t think one even has to discuss what a great violinist he was, what a musician – but if I had felt his shadow what should I do when I played Brahms? Or Beethoven? Or Tchaikovsky for that matter? I think history is there not to overpower us, but to inspire.
Vadim Gluzman will perform Korngold’s Violin Concerto at the Royal Festival Hall on 7 October with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vassily Sinaisky
Interview by Elizabeth Davis