Violinist Itzhak Perlman buzzed out onto the Proctors’ stage Saturday night in his motorized chair, followed by his longtime accompanist Rohan De Silva, and was greeted with a long, sustained applause from the capacity crowd. It was a fitting tribute for an artist who has become a cultural icon and whose efforts even now at age 68 continues to thrill, charm and amaze. Perlman inspires.
His program was varied and showed off the stuff Perlman is known for. He began with Beethoven’s Sonata No. 3 in E-flat Major, which was a bit rough around the edges. The notes, phrasing and attention to detail were all there, invigorated with a strong energy, but Perlman was getting used to the hall, the audience, the event. With no amplification, the theater seemed almost too large for such an intimate sound.
In Franck’s gorgeously romantic Sonata in A Major, things started to fall in place and the audience had dropped its noise level to accommodate the duo. Perlman has a special way with the tone he produces. He seems to get inside of the sound and with his distinctive use of vibrato and portamento, which is that glide between tones that sounds like a sigh, his phrases were like an impassioned embrace.
They began magically as if from a distance, with Perlman letting the phrases breathe and slowly build. As he soared with great eloquence, DeSilva executed very difficult, fast chordal passages that marvelously kept within a perfect balance. Throughout all four movements, the musicality, DeSilva’s exceptional partnering and Perlman’s virtuosity were sensational. No one could have played better.
After intermission, it was vintage Perlman.
They began with Tartini’s Sonata in G minor (“Devil’s Trill”) arranged by Fritz Kreisler, himself a virtuoso violinist of the late 19th century into the mid-20th century. Perlman made forceful statements, some with humor, and rich tone. Sparks flew in the faster sections.
Perlman then turned to the crowd to banter and talk about what they’d play next. Sifting through a pile of short pieces on his music stand, he settled for five, each of which he introduced with short funny remarks that brought much laughter. They were Kreisler’s own “Tempo di Minuetto in the style of Gaetano Pugnani,” which was a majestic yet sprightly tune; two of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances transcribed by Brahms’ favorite violinist Joseph Joachim that Perlman played with great gusto and schmaltz; Tchaikovsky’s “Chant sans Paroles,” which was a sweetly lyrical number; and the famous “Dance of the Goblins” by Antonio Bazzini, which had all the fireworks one could wish for.
Perlman had great fun, and the crowd basked in his glorious talent. Not even a prolonged standing ovation seemed enough of an accolade.