Itzhak Perlman


In her journal, in the writings of a child, she has written about her family crying through Thanksgiving after the funeral of the president. In a few years she wishes Atticus’ arms could embrace her and protect her from the hate. Right fielder Rocky Colavito is the ultimate dreamboat – she never misses the Indians box scores. Chaim Potok, not a dreamboat, is soon to make her feel like she is Chosen. But tucked into the pages is another name because of a chance one time sighting on an Ed Sullivan Sunday evening in 1964…Itzhak Perlman, 19 year old violinist from Israel. There is something about Itzhak Perlman and he is writ upon her heart. 

Many in the audience rose to their feet just at the sight of him last Tuesday, at a recital brought to Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Hall by the Oregon Symphony. They didn’t wait to hear him; they rose out of love. His eyes twinkled and head nodded his thanks and then he simply began, leading off with the spritely solo notes of the Sonata for Violin and Piano (continuo) in D Major (Opus 9, No. 3) by Jean-Marie Leclair.

Itzhak Perlman played with a lightness, ornaments hung with such care on the fluttery Baroque melodies. Standard violin literature, this Leclair — probably the best known of the French Baroque composer’s ouevre. The first two movements settled into the major key, gave way to the minor for the third, a Sarabanda, before returning to major for the Tambourin, named for the unadorned continuo reiteration, like a drum beat. Not so for pianist Rohan De Silva, whose appropriately continuo-style interpretation made us realize, from the beginning of the piece, that he is an equal partner on the Perlman-De Silva program. Adjusting the balance of piano to the early French Baroque violin writing is a challenge in this 1743 piece. The two artists successfullly made that adjustment, thanks to their psychically synchronized nuances.

Perlman and De Silva performed in Portland.

Perlman and De Silva performed in Portland.

Violinist Joseph Joachim must have been one special guy to have three composer friends (Schumann, Dietrich and Brahms) co-write a sonata for him as a coming home gift. They set out to write around the tones F-A-E (Joachim’s personal motif). Brahms copped out on the F-A-E but wrote a jewel of a scherzo movement that Joachim cherished, and finally allowed to be published in 1906. (The entire four-movement work, which is rarely performed, was published in 1935.)

The scherzo was performed beautifully. The piano part has the richness of Brahms’s piano Sonatas (written around the same time), with a grounded four-note unison beginning that cycles back providing drama against the classic Brahms twos-against-threes and hemiolas. Mr. De Silva shone here again. It’s an impressive favorite work that served well as an amuse bouche to the upcoming entrée of Beethoven.


Itzkah Perlman performed at Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall January 19. Photo: Akira Kinoshita

Itzkah Perlman performed at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall January 19. Photo: Akira Kinoshita.


Halfway into Itzhak Perlman’s performance at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall last Sunday, at the magical point in the third movement of Cesar Franck’s famous violin and piano sonata, an audience member laughed quietly in awe and whispered, “There it is!” Like the rest of the listeners in that moment, he leaned forward to better soak it in.

As the 69-year-old violin legend came on stage to tumultuous applause, I wondered how the  rich musicianship connected with every individual in the audience. Perlman’s Portland performance was filled with people of all ages seeking the kind of transcendent experience expected from this music celebrity’s ability to emotionally connect across all boundaries via musical language. While Perlman is not the powerhouse of technical skill from twenty years ago, clearly parents and grandparents felt the importance of bringing their children to hear this cultural icon.


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