When the Chicago Symphony Orchestra opens its 119th subscription season tonight in Symphony Center, the guest artists will bring a Midwestern twist to their international credentials.
Estonian-born conductor Paavo Jarvi has been having a major success at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, where he has been music director since 2001.
The evening's soloist -- violinist Vadim Gluzman, a native of Riga, Latvia, who lived for more than a decade in Israel -- has been a North Shore resident since 2002.
Gluzman made his local debut on Ravinia's "Rising Stars" series in 1996, and forged a strong connection with the Chicago-based Stradivari Society. Fine violins are prohibitively expensive, and the society, founded in 1985, arranges extended loans for deserving young soloists. Artists on their roster include Joshua Bell and Gil Shaham.
"I began coming to Chicago regularly 11 years ago or so when I became a recipient of this wonderful violin," said Gluzman, referring to the 1689 Strad once owned by legendary virtuoso Leopold Auer, an instrument, he added, "that I play gladly, proudly." Now 36, married to pianist Angela Joffe and the father of a five-year-old girl, he jokes that he made his "Rising Stars" debut "back when I was young and beautiful.
"I had so many friends who lived in Chicago,'' said Gluzman, "and I found a very [flexible] teaching possibility, which I always dreamed about but never thought would be possible.'' He is affiliated with Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts.
Gluzman, who maintains an active international career, makes his CSO debut tonight with Leonard Bernstein's Serenade, composed in 1954. Though an heir to the great Romantic tradition of Russian violin-playing, Gluzman regularly performs newer works as well as the big 19th century concertos by composers such as Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.
"For me, it's important to maintain a balance, both in my personal life and my musical life," he said. "By nature, I'm curious. I need a variety, and I'm always willing to try new things. I play Bach with the greatest of pleasure, then I play Gubaidulina [Sofia Gubaidulina, a contemporary Russian-born composer] with the same thirst.''
Performing 20th century music effects his approach to older works, said Gluzman.
"I remember some years ago I was learning the Berg Violin Concerto. [Composed in 1935, Alban Berg's concerto is an angular but melodically haunting piece.] It is by no means a 'modern' work, but it isn't a Mozart concerto, either. The experience of performing Berg on stage for the first time was something absolutely out of this world for me.
"Then I remember going on stage the very next week playing Brahms, and I noticed how much I had changed. It was not something conscious, obviously; it just happened. I saw so many things differently. There was such clarity. I saw the structure in a completely different way. If I don't push myself into different realms of the repertoire, I think I will be limping.''
Tonight's concert also includes the Overture to Bernstein's opera "Candide'' and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.