At 68, Itzhak Perlman continues to perform around the world


Violinist Itzhak Perlman will perform in a sold-out recital tonight at the Phillips Center.

Courtesy of Lisa-Marie Mazzucco/Sony Music Entertainment
Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 10:47 a.m.

He's a virtuoso of the violin without peer, the most accomplished master of the instrument of his era — with a name in demand from the White House to performing halls worldwide and accolades including 15 Grammy awards, a National Medal of the Arts and a Kennedy Center Honor. Yet Itzhak Perlman's remarkable success over six decades is fueled by a singular approach and motivation that propel his performances — “speaking” rather than “playing” the music.

Facts

Itzhak Perlman

What: Internationally renowned violinist performs recital with pianist Rohan De Silva
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
Where: Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road
Tickets: SOLD OUT
Info: 392-2787,
Ticketmaster.com

“When I play, I don't concentrate on the notes anymore, I concentrate on the music,” Perlman, 68, said in a recent phone call from New York City.


Itzhak Perlman

What: Internationally renowned violinist performs recital with pianist Rohan De Silva

When: 7:30 p.m. tonight

Where: Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road

Tickets: SOLD OUT

Info: 392-2787, Ticketmaster.com


“And I always say the most important thing for a performer is to 'speak' the music rather than to 'play' the music. Because after you reach a certain level, you know how to play the instrument, you know how to play the piece. And now is the time to 'talk' the piece and to convince the audience about your feeling about the piece.

“So that's basically what I do onstage: My job is to convince the audience and to show the audience my sort of reaction to the piece.

“My business is to show you my feeling,” he says.

Tonight, a Phillips Center audience of 1,700 will hear such an approach firsthand when Perlman performs a recital with pianist Rohan De Silva.

As is often the case with a Perlman performance, the concert is sold out. And Director of UF Performing Arts Michael Blachly, who has presented the revered performer to audiences a number of times over the years, offers a succinct description of Perlman that also explains why the tag “sold out” nearly always accompanies his performances.

“He's one of the artists that when you say his name, you define the instrument,” Blachly says. “Itzhak Perlman is the violin, kind of like Yo-Yo Ma is the cello; like Marcel Marceau was mime.

“He is a singular figure in the classical music world, where the violin and he are synonymous; one with the other,” Blachly says. “And it goes all the way back to his early engagement on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.'

Born in 1945 in Tel Aviv, Israel, Perlman demonstrated a remarkable early aptitude for music — a penchant that resulted in his first public performance at age 10 and a 1958 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” when he was just 13.

“That was amazing,” Perlman says. “Ed Sullivan came to Israel to choose, basically, he wanted to have an Israeli show, and so I was lucky to be one of the people who were 'chosen.' But the fact that this was a television program that aired to millions and millions of people was an incredible experience.”

Perlman came to the U.S. from Israel specifically for that appearance, he says. “And then the plan was to stay here, and that's what happened.”

After completing studies at the Juilliard School of Music, his career became a virtual nonstop record of in-demand performances, whether it be with an orchestra, chamber ensemble or in a solo recital, as Blachly notes. “He showed that prowess as a very young man, and he's sustained it all of his career,” he says.

Perlman is also known for conducting — leading such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, National Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic, to name just a few — as well as for teaching, whether at Juilliard or in residencies of his Perlman Music Program, which has included winter stints in Sarasota for 10 years.

“The teaching part of it has been extremely important for me,” Perlman says. “And the important thing for me is because it helps my playing part; it helps my conducting part.”

Teaching high-level students has the violinist listening intently so he can make suggestions for improvements both technically and musically. “How do you phrase, what do you do with colors and all of that,” Perlman says.

“And then I find myself onstage playing, and I automatically ask myself the same questions. I say to myself, 'Let's see, what would I do with that phrase?' And that's automatically because I'm used to listening to somebody play and trying to make a judgement call as to what can make that phrase work better and so on.”

Perlman also approaches his performances by choosing pieces that he would enjoy listening to with an ear to audiences' expectations as well.

And in choosing specific pieces, Perlman says he approaches it like planning a menu, with complementing pieces that make for a satisying experience in total.

“It's like constructing a meal,” he says. “You know what you get for an appetizer, what do you have for the main course, and what do you have for dessert?” he says.

“And just because everybody likes dessert, it doesn't mean that the whole meal has to be dessert. You have to have contrast; otherwise, even stuff that you like very, very much can become boring because of repetition and so on.

“It's so funny, because I love to make comparisons to food,” Perlman laughs. “Everything is good.”

Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at bill.dean@gvillesun.com, and follow on Twitter @SceneBillDean.

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