Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Itzhak Perlman was spellbinding in his Saturday evening, October 30 performance at the John Harms Theater, accompanied by Mr. Rohan de Silva on the piano. Mr. Perlman graced the Englewood venue as he has the White House, honoring Queen Elizabeth II, and Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Mr. Perlman first explained that some of the music to be played was intended for orchestral accompaniment, but that evening he would be joined by only the piano. Together, Mr. Perlman and Mr. de Silva filled the auditorium with the power of joyous, serious and playful Baroque, Classical and Romantic era music.

It was a rare treat to hear music being played on the 300-year-old Soil Stradivarius, one of only 650 Strad instruments extant in the world, most of which are in private collections. The instrument had been passed on from Yehudi Menuhin, a violinist giant of the twentieth century.

Mr. Perlman began with a fixed set of three pieces that spanned from the Baroque through the Romantic eras. He then played a series of pieces that seemed randomly chosen from the stack of sheet music in front of him, covering most of the spectrum of the Minuet by Pugnani, a Toccata, a “Dance,” a Love Song, the Mozart Rondo and the Bruch Concerto.

The concert was transformed into a shared journey through the history of music, with beloved pieces close to the violinist’s heart. We saw Mr. Perlman, we heard Mr. Perlman and we came closer to knowing Mr. Perlman. We were also treated to Mr. Perlman’s warm sense of humanity and humor through an ongoing Leitmotif of attribution to Fritz Kreisler, an Austrian-born American violinist and composer.

Mr. Perlman displayed amazing dexterity across long slow bows of the Romantic Era to the bouncing bow of more modern times. His energy was evident in the Wieniawski Caprice and Antonio Bazzini’s “Dance of the Goblins.” Mr. Perlman’s fingers flew across and up and down the strings of the fingerboard as if they were dancing the most complex combination of Minuet and Tango.

The evening began with an introductory recital by the Elisabeth Morrow School 7th and 8th grade orchestra. Clearly, this orchestra, along with Mr. Perlman, savored performing once again before a live audience after a year and a half hiatus. Their Brandenburg Concerto Number 3 and Pachabel’s “Canon in D Major,” two of this author’s favorites, were familiar and delightful.

For logistical reasons, the orchestra set up in the aisles and surrounded the audience in sound. This performance was not only a wonderful opportunity for the young players, but a clear reminder that Mr. Perlman is a teacher and influence on the next generation of violinists, and a model of humanity.

Mr. Perlman began with the Baroque richness of the Handel Sonata No. 4 in D Major, playing as if the music emanated from his soul. He continued with the Rondo in C Major by Mozart, a work securely fitting into the transition from Baroque to Classical music. His transition from the seriousness of the Handel Violin Sonata to the playfulness and light thematic of Mozart’s Rondo seemed effortless.

The scheduled part of the program was rounded out with the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor by Bruch. The familiar theme of the concerto left me breathless as he coursed through the theme and the surrounding tours up and down the fingerboard. We then transitioned to the “Play what we will like” section.

Mr. Perlman opened this segment of the evening with an arrangement of the Toccata Paradiese by Jascha Heifitz. Perhaps this was selected as additional proof that Mr. Perlman could play a most challenging piece with the ease of Mozart’s “Ah, vous dirais-je, Maman,” (“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”). The Toccata is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer’s fingers.

Next “Liebeslied” by Fritz Kreisler moved the auditorium with its emotion and intensity. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was Mr. Perlman’s magnificent rendition of the “Theme from Schindler’s List” by John Williams. The enthusiastic and powerful applause before and even more so after the rendition was evidence of the popularity and beauty of the piece and the performance.

It was Halloween eve, so performing “A Dance of the Goblins” by Antonio Bazzini
seemed appropriate. He played with spirited energy, excellence and excitement. The piece required supernatural command of the bow over the length and breadth of the fingerboard. Of particular delight was the Dance’s plinking of the strings, so well-orchestrated into the mad dash up and down the fingerboard. We wanted it to go on forever.

How to describe Itzhak Perlman? He is an artist, a violinist, a teacher, a conductor and a humorist. Beloved for his charm and humanity as well as his talent, he is treasured by audiences throughout the world who respond not only to his remarkable artistry, but also his irrepressible joy for making music. Undeniably the reigning virtuoso of the violin, Itzhak Perlman enjoys superstar status rarely afforded a classical musician. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to choose a favorite piece performed this evening. While it is not clear whether he plays for his own benefit and enjoyment or for the benefit and enjoyment of his “followers”—or perhaps both—we are all the lucky beneficiaries. Mr. Perlman’s works can be found on the Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Warner/EMI Classics, Sony Classical and Telarc labels, and he is a featured contributor to the next generations of violinists on masterclass.com

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