Friday, July 30, 2010

The power of Perlman

World’s top violinist to play with Sun Valley Summer Symphony

Express Staff Writer

Itzhak Perlman will play in Sun Valley Aug. 2. Courtesy photo.

"Practice is not a way of life, it is part of a day's activity," said violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman in a phone interview with the Idaho Mountain Express on Wednesday, July 28.

A living legend with superstar status rarely associated with a classical musician, Perlman is not only a superb violinist, he is a humanitarian and remarkable educator.

"When I play a concert now, it's a third of my music activity," Perlman said. "I play, conduct and teach. Doing all these things in music keeps me going, and its very exciting."

Perlman was born in Israel in 1945. He completed his initial training at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv. After moving to New York, he was soon was propelled into the international arena with an appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1958. Following his studies at the Juilliard School with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay, Perlman won the prestigious Leventritt Competition in 1964, which led to a flourishing worldwide career. Since then, Perlman has appeared with every major orchestra and in recitals and festivals around the world.

"Sun Valley will be the only date I play this summer," he said.

Perlman will join the Sun Valley Summer Symphony on Monday, Aug. 2, to open the orchestra's season. In a free concert, he will play Bruch's "Concerto No. 1 in G Minor for Violin, Opus 26" after the orchestra performs Tchaikovsky's "Capriccio Italien, Opus 45."

"Bruch is one of the great staples of violin libretto, and I play it all the time," said Perlman. "It's a summer piece and very romantic."

Perlman fills his summer days with The Perlman Music program, which celebrates its 16th year this summer on Shelter Island, N.Y.

"I had nothing to do with it," he said. "My wife, Toby, started it, and it was her dream. We met at such a camp."

Perlman said he very quickly became involved in the program and teaching the children who attend the camp.

"Kids who play instruments are athletes," he said. "They have to use their arms and have injuries associated with athletes. These kids have a vigorous program and practice four hours a day, have chamber music coaching and then orchestra in the evening."

Perlman said the kids also sing in chorus and perform very serious classical works. He said the kids, who range in age from 12 to 18 years old, just finished a reading of Mozart's "Requiem."

"I am exposed to the future of classical music," he said. "Every year, the level of auditions continues to rise. There is not a lot of free space for the program with 100 applications for only one or two spaces."


When Perlman isn't working with kids or playing, he has a frequent presence on the conductor's podium. This season marks his third as artistic director of the Westchester Philharmonic Orchestra. He has performed as conductor with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, National Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Montreal and Toronto.

Internationally, Perlman has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Philharmonic, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic. Perlman's 2010-11 season will take his performances as soloist to both new and familiar major centers throughout the world. This fall, he will travel to Chile and Brazil, with orchestral performances in Santiago and recitals in Rio de Janeiro, Paulinia and Sao Paulo. In October, he will play to audiences in Japan with seven recitals in Tokyo, Osaka, Matsumoto, Nagoya and Yokohama with pianist and frequent collaborator Rohan De Silva.

Perlman will also join the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall for their opening subscription week under Music Director Alan Gilbert. Other highlights of his 2010-11 season will include a special performance with the Chicago Symphony to benefit the Rotary Foundation's campaign to End Polio Now, a performance with the Toronto Symphony at Carnegie Hall and recitals across North America, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, West Palm Beach and San Antonio.

Perlman also appears with students and alumni from The Perlman Music Program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J.

Perlman does return to his native Israel to play. He said when he is given an invitation to play in other, more volatile countries, it's sometimes an indication things are improving.

"We are going through a batch of leaders that cannot get along," he said. "But, I am an eternal optimist, and I feel things will get better."

He said it's a long process for change, but music is an international language—when things do get better he will hear about it.

Perlman has been honored with four Emmy Awards, most recently for the PBS documentary "Fiddling for the Future," a film about The Perlman Music Program and his work as a teacher and conductor there. One of his proudest achievements is his collaboration with film score composer John Williams in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning film "Schindler's List," in which he performed the violin solos.

In February 2008, Perlman was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the recording arts. His recordings regularly appear on the best-seller charts and have garnered 15 Grammy Awards. His most recent releases include an all-Mozart recording with the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI) with Perlman performing as both soloist and conductor and a recording for Deutsche Grammophon with Perlman conducting the Israel Philharmonic.

Numerous publications and institutions have paid tribute to Perlman for the unique place he occupies in the artistic and humanitarian fabric of our times. Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, Roosevelt, Yeshiva and Hebrew universities are among the institutions, which have awarded him honorary degrees. He was awarded an honorary doctorate and a centennial medal on the occasion of Juilliard's 100th commencement ceremony in May 2005. President Reagan honored Perlman with a Medal of Liberty in 1986, and in December 2000, President Clinton awarded Perlman the National Medal of Arts.

Adding to Perlman's extensive history and list of accomplishments, Perlman works with classical music's most prominent performers, including cellist Yo Yo Ma and pianist Emmanuel Ax. Ax will perform with Sun Valley Summer Symphony on Saturday, Aug. 7, playing Brahms' "Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major for Piaon, Opus 83."

"Manny is a wonderful pianist," Perlman said. "We have been friends for many years. I believe it's nice when you make music and even better with good friends. We go back a long time."

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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