Can a violin be famous? What if it was made by Antonio Stradivari, was played by Leopold Auer—and debuted the solos from Nutcracker and Swan Lake? Vadim Gluzman plays this violin now. It was made in 1869, and is one of only 500 or so by the legendary craftsman that can still be played.
Gluzman recently played the instrumentz—on extended loan by the Stradivari Society of Chicago—while accompanied on piano by his wife, Angela Yoffe. Their performance was a fundraiser for the Solomon Schechter Day School's arts program. The couple's daughter, Orli, who also plays violin, is in fourth grade there. The performance was held at the Highland Park home of their fellow Schechter parents Melanie and Jeff Michael. At the concert, the musicians played Mozart and two Jewish composers, Ernst Bloch and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, who came to the United States before the Holocaust.
"It is wonderful to have the Gluzman family at Solomon Schechter Day School," said Linda P. Foster, Schechter's CEO/Head of School. "They truly appreciate all that Schechter offers their daughter and family, and are among our many passionate supporters. We so appreciate that they have generously agreed to perform together for a school that means so much to them."
The couple's next major performances will be more public. They direct the North Shore Chamber Music Festival, which will be held this year on June 4, 6, and 7 in Northbrook. It will feature the music of familiar favorites like Bach, Beethoven, Strauss, and Mendelssohn, plus a series of Mozart pieces used in movies. Attendees will also hear works by Arvo Part, Max Bruch, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Special features will include a performance by young musicians, a lecture on musical prodigies, and late-night jazz jams.
The couple's repertoire is large, but Gluzman said it would be impossible to name his favorite composer. He admits he is "drawn to Russian and Jewish music," but insists that "music is the most cosmopolitan, borderless form of art."
Gluzman and Yoffe have been making music together since they were children. They both attended the same school for the musically gifted in Riga, Latvia's capital. Gluzman started to play at the advanced age of 7; his classmates had begun at 5. Asked why he switched from piano to violin, he replied, "In the Soviet Union, no one asked you what you wanted!" Meanwhile, Yoffe started playing piano "right on time," she said, at age 4.
Their first joint concert was at Riga's Jewish cultural center. They moved to Israel in the early 1990s and married there; their second concert was in Jerusalem. Then they moved to Dallas and have since lived in New York and Chicago, but they still consider themselves Israeli and have family in Israel.
Gluzman records for the BIS label, and has played with the orchestras of Chicago, San Francisco, London, Munich, and Israel. Yoffe has also performed worldwide; in 2013-14 alone, she will play in London, Tel Aviv, Paris, and Geneva. They have both played at major international festivals. Together, they will soon play a piece for the Hamburg Ballet; they had both played at ballet's premiere in 2003.
For all of their travels, Chicago is their favorite U.S. city. Yoffe has "a lot close friends here," she said, many of whom are also from Riga. "It's a very nice, warm community."
Gluzman agreed. "It has all the privileges of a great metropolis, with all the intimacy of a human place," he said. And, unlike New York, I can see a tree out my window."
For a list of artists at the North Shore Chamber Music Festival, plus the schedule and ticket information, visit www.nscmf.org.