Vadim Gluzman, his Stradivarius and me

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2min 45sec
(Photo: CPR/Brad Turner)
<p>Violinist Vadim Gluzman and his storied Stradivarius as seen from behind the glass in the CPR Performance Studio.</p>
Photo: Violinist Vadim Gluzman behind the glass in the CPR Performance Studio
Violinist Vadim Gluzman and his storied Stradivarius as seen from behind the glass in the CPR Performance Studio.

I was bitterly disappointed.

Violinist Vadim Gluzman came to Colorado Public Radio on Thursday to record in our Performance Studio before appearing with the Colorado Symphony. He plays an extraordinary instrument.

First of all it’s a Stradivarius fiddle. Secondly, it was crafted in 1690.

Third, this very special violin is known as the “ex-Leopold Auer” and has tremendous musical history behind it.

Its former owner was Leopold Auer, the brilliant Hungarian violinist for whom Tchaikovsky composed his famous concerto. When Auer saw the finished product, he threw up his hands. He said it couldn’t be played, much to the composer’s bitter disappointment. (Other violinists proved him wrong, and he eventually swallowed his own words and performed it himself.)

About 25 years later, Russian composer Alexander Glazunov fared better. He dedicated his one and only violin concerto to Leopold Auer, who played the premiere in St Petersburg.

Photo: Violinist Leopold Auer
Violinist Leopold Auer.

One of his functions was to perform all the solos at the Imperial Ballet. This means some of the greatest solos in the repertory were written with him in mind. Auer played them all. Think “Swan Lake” or Glazunov’s “Raymonda,” for example.

Performance aside, Auer was also a celebrated teacher. He passed on his legacy to some of the most greatest violinists who ever lived. Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, Mischa Elman and Efrem Zimbalist were among those passed through his studio.

In the CPR Performance Studio, I got a glimpse of this beautiful instrument from a distance while standing in the control room listening to Gluzman record. What I heard gave me goosebumps -- not just because of the glorious sound, but because of my awareness of the tremendous history behind this beautiful Stradivarius.

Gluzman says he’s been performing on Auer’s Stradivarius for 16 years. And he’s totally over the moon about it.

“Words cannot describe how wonderful this instrument is,” he said. “It makes me run 15 times faster, dive 15 times deeper. When I first picked up this violin and notes emanated from my bow, I understood that my life had changed.”

He noted “she” -- the violin -- actually likes the dryness and high altitude in Colorado.

Gluzman quickly tucked away the violin in its case when he finished recording. The closest I ever got was a few feet away from it in the interview studio. As a violinist who has played in orchestras for more than three decades, I would have loved to hold that violin in my arms, just to say I touched a real Stradivarius instrument.

So close, but so far. Like I said, I was bitterly disappointed.

Maybe I should’ve asked to hold it.

Nah, that would’ve been too forward.

Click the audio above to hear Vadim Gluzman and his Stradivarius in action in the CPR Performance Studio.