Itzhak Perlman is one of the most venerated violinists of our time and as a violin student, I couldn’t pass up a chance to see him live in recital. I wasn’t the only one, with a concert hall packed with an eager audience, it seems clear that Perlman is still a cherished artist to many music lovers.

Itzhak Perlman © Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Itzhak Perlman
© Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

His programme consisted of a piece from each of the musical periods in Western Classical music, starting with Vivaldi’s Sonata in A major for Violin and Continuo to represent the Baroque period. This is a typical small scale sonata of the time, in that it is a part of a larger set of 12 sonatas, his Op.2 set. It is a delightful, if brief, sonata which Perlman executed with apparent ease. He launched into the opening arpeggiated spiccatos, giving way to charming passages in the Corrente. His phrasings were beautiful and gave the music the sunny character that is often present with the A major key.

The “Spring” Sonata is from the early period of Beethoven’s compositional career, thus giving us a glimpse of the happier Beethoven, and this sonata is just that. Written in the key of F major, all four movements characterise a genuine cheerfulness and joy. Perlman’s playing was inviting and coloured with vibrato aplenty. This is perhaps a questionable feature as stylistically Beethoven had preferred the use of vibratos to be more ornamental rather than continuous. However, it didn’t take away from Perlman’s performance. Indeed, his interpretation of the second movement Adagio encapsulated a warmth and purity that was outstanding when you consider that it was simply a melody over an Alberti bass. I’m sure this is greatly due to the partnership between De Silva and Perlman, where there is a clear musical entrainment between the pair that resulted in this beautiful music making.

A violin work by Schumann isn’t very often played in public recitals, and his Fantasiestücke, Op.73 was technically written for the clarinet, although Schumann prepares versions for violin and cello. Characteristically Schumannesque, streams of unspoken utterings flowed through the three Fantasy Pieces like a musical discourse between De Silva and Perlman. I could particularly appreciate the tone of Perlman’s Stradivarius in this piece, sonorous and with a sweet dark edge that reminds me a little of a cello sound which especially fitted lower registers of the piece. The fiery finish was brilliantly handled.

Stravisnsky’s Suite Italienne was formed from Stravinsky’s success with his Pulcinella ballet. The score was inspired by Pergolesi, an 18th-century composer, and thus contained more conservative harmonies and melodic lines. The six movements also bore some rather Italianate phrases with its bold and continuous phrases. Perlman and De Silva handled all the movements with ease. The Tarantella movement was particularly notable, the spiccatos from Perlman’s bows seemingly dancing on the strings with its footsteps tapping out a light-hearted tune. There was also a jazzy episode in the closing Finale that added a refreshing touch to the night.

Perlman played a generous five encores to the delight of audience, Perlman filling the gaps between pieces with witty jokes. He certainly warmed the hearts of many in the audience with his music and his personality, reminding us that music is not merely a show of virtuosity but also a generous sharing of one’s core being, in which everybody can partake.